The Pittsburgh Penguins went out and signed a top-tier defenseman in Christian Ehrhoff, a bottom-six forward in Blake Comeau, and a solid goaltender in Thomas Greiss on the first day of free agency.
However, they did not bring in a top-six forward, which they were expected to do. And now, the chances of them signing Nikolai Kulemin – who was rumored to be on their list to put with Evgeni Malkin – seems highly doubtful.
According to Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, general manager Jim Rutherford reportedly feels the team doesn’t need a top-six forward at this point, and that Kulemin’s spot on the Pens’ roster is unlikely.
Rutherford says a Kulemin signing is now unlikely. He doesn’t think Pens need a top-6 winger at this point.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) July 1, 2014
Yohe tweeted on Monday that the feeling around the organization was they were targeting Kulemin, as he would be a nice compliment to Malkin on the second-line.
Every indication is that the Pens have targeted Nikolai Kulemin for tomorrow. Many in organization like him. Obviously Malkin will approve.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) June 30, 2014
When Rutherford spoke to the media Tuesday afternoon, he was asked by a reporter if there was still a chance Kulemin could be signed.
Here’s what he said, per the Pens’ Twitter handle:
“I guess there’s always a chance, but it would take someone getting very, very creative to figure out how that contract fits into our cap. But, as we speak, there’s nothing in that regards.”
Rutherford: “We had a really good day today… We’re very fortunate to sign Christian Ehrhoff.” Full press conference → http://t.co/OjDXMkd3hy
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) July 1, 2014
Perhaps, the team indeed discussed a contract with Kulemin, but just was asking for too much. At least, that’s the perception to get when Rutherford says, “it would take someone getting very, very creative to figure out how that contract fits into our cap.” However, their supposed meeting cannot be confirmed.
In 70 regular-season games last season, Kulemin registered 20 points (9G, 11A) and skated to a minus-4 rating.