Penguins Have “Moved On” From Swiss Star Damien Brunner, Matt Niskanen Notes

- It looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins are officially out of the running for Swiss star forward Damien Brunner.

The Penguins were interested in the former National League A (Switzerland) star, but several sources claim the Penguins are no longer considering bringing the winger aboard.

Brunner can reach a deal with an NHL team at any time, though he can’t officially sign until July 1, when unrestricted free agency begins. The Tampa Bay Lightning are still considered the favorite to land Brunner’s talents, while the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings are also certainly in the running.

- The Penguins made a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Matt Niskanen this week. The one-year deal was worth $1.75 million, though Niskanen has declined the deal.

This isn’t unexpected. The qualifying offer means the Penguins will receive some draft picks if Niskanen signs with another team this summer, but that seems unlikely. There is mutual interest in negotiating a multi-year deal between Niskanen and the Penguins.

The 25-year-old, who was obtained in the Alex Goligoski / James Neal swap, played more games (75) than any Penguins defenseman last season. After a poor showing during the 2011 playoffs, Niskanen was a solid body on the blue line in 2011-12.

A plethora of seemingly NHL-ready prospects including Simon Despres, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo, among others, leaves me wondering if a multi-year deal is the right way to go with Niskanen.

Unless a big trade is made this summer and one or two of the team’s current top six defensemen are moved, the Penguins will enter the 2012-13 season with a defensive group similar or identical to the one that was completely embarrassed during the 2012 playoffs.

That can’t happen. Here’s to hoping GM Ray Shero realizes that.

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