The Pittsburgh Penguins started the free agency period with very little on their overall roster, so they were truly in need of adding players, right off the hop... and add players they did!
Saturday, when free agency opened up, they put pen to paper with 10 players, most notably re-signing restricted free agent Justin Schultz to a new 3-year, $16.5 million deal and then adding pool worthy players like goaltender Antti Niemi to a 1-year, $700,000 deal and defenseman Matt Hunwick to a 3-year, $6.75 million deal.
Schultz was definitely the biggest prize to get done and the team did so with not giving away too much to do so. The soon-to-be 27-year old really took control of the Penguins blueline during the playoff run, when injuries took hold of their roster and he performed admirably in doing so, earning the extra contract extension and raise. In the regular season, Schultz finished 7th among all defensemen in scoring with 51 points in 78 games and he'll be a big fixture on this team for years to come.
It's still unclear on how the Penguins are going to proceed with Niemi, unless they are not very confident that Tristan Jarry will be able to fulfill the duties of the back-up properly. Niemi won 12 games for Dallas last season, before getting bought of a goaltending logjam, but his role in Pittsburgh will certainly be a lot less than before and he may fall right out of the pool rankings.
Hunwick had a pretty good year in Toronto in 2017, finishing with 19 points in 72 games with the Maple Leafs, but he may not have liked how much ice-time he was getting or how quickly he may have been dropping in their depth charts either. With the Penguins, he's a top four guy today and with the general health concerns of Kris Letang, the Penguins do get a little extra insurance with Hunwick's ability.
|Evgeni Malkin||9.500||Kris Letang||7.250||Matt Murray||3.750|
|Sidney Crosby||8.700||Justin Schultz||5.500||Tristan Jarry||0.631|
|Phil Kessel||6.800||Olli Maatta||4.083|
|Patric Hornqvist||4.250||Matt Hunwick||2.250|
|Carl Hagelin||4.000||Ian Cole||2.100|
|Ryan Reaves||1.125||Chad Ruhwedel||0.650|
|Jake Guentzel||0.734||Frank Corrado||0.650|
The Penguins really scrubbed their way down to the bone, when free agency came around and their projected roster would certainly suggest that, especially at the forward position. Still, they can ice a team for opening night, if it started today, but they still have $9.09 million to play with and an extra roster spot still open above. They still have to re-sign Conor Sheary, Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin in this off-season, but that may not be too much of a problem.
It's way too early to start thinking about a three-peat, but in just repeating their championship, they were able to find more than enough depth to do so. The Penguins certainly don't have that same depth going on today, but they will continue to work at it and maybe, they'll find more diamonds in the rough, like Jake Guentzel.