NHL rumors: Kings can't keep Dustin Penner; where will he sign?

Dustin Penner had two goals in the regular season, three in the playoffs. (USATSI)
Dustin Penner had two goals in the regular season, three in the playoffs. (USATSI)

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Not every free agent was signed during the busy frenzy that pretty much began and ended on July 5, when free agency opened. There remain some pretty interesting players on the market, including Kings forward Dustin Penner.

The big forward who was part of LA's Stanley Cup team in 2011-12 never shut the door on a return to the Kings. But at this point, it's looking less and less likely.

The Kings are one of many teams this summer dealing with the crunch coming from the diminishing salary cap ceiling for next season with a lot of money already committed. GM Dean Lombardi doesn't seem to think fitting Penner back on the payroll is in the cards, he told LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen.

It's one of those cap things, and I guess it's safe to say I have a limited amount of cap space left, and there certainly isn't going to be enough to -- I mean his requirements. I talked to him the other day, and I just told him. I talked to his agent a couple days ago and [said] 'This is where we're at. I've only got X amount left.'

As it stands, the Kings have a little more than $5 million in cap space available. However, four Kings -- Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and Jordan Nolan -- filed for salary arbitration on Wednesday. That doesn't count another restricted free agent who remains unsigned -- Kyle Clifford.

Getting all of those guys under contract is a tough enough task; trying to fit in Penner is all but impossible. So, at this point, you know you'll see Penner in another sweater. And despite his relative lack of production -- two goals during the regular season -- there should be interest.

One of Penner's old teams, the Oilers, have been popping up as a potential landing spot. There surely are others interested as well.

Penner will turn 31 in September and is a far cry from the type of player whom he was when he played for Edmonton or Anaheim early in his career. It was just 2009-10 that he had 32 goals and 31 assists for Edmonton. In the three seasons since, he has 32 goals ... combined. That is skewed a bit by the short season, but in 33 games this past season he only had two goals and 12 assists. However, he was a bit more productive in the postseason with three goals and two assists, looking a bit more like the player whom many think he can be.

It's not like a team is going to spend a lot of money on Penner considering how much his production has dropped -- and some question his fitness (see Mark Spector here) -- but on a cheap deal, he could be a good bet for some teams in a third-line role. If nothing else, Penner remains a physical player, bringing a little more to the table than just scoring.

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