Penguin's Free Agency Updates
The anticlimactic Eastern Conference Finals left the fans of Pittsburgh with a plethora of questions. These questions particularly focused on the two major pieces of upcoming free agency, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. With both super star players heading into their final year of contractual status with the Penguins, it became top priority to sign both and work from that point on.
The Malkin Deal
Evgeni Malkin could have been a much richer man had he gone to UFA status or headed back to his native country of Russia, but Malkin insisted on staying in Pittsburgh. Malkin signed an eight year, 76 million dollar extension. His 9.5 million dollar AAV is the highest on the team and ranks among the highest in the league, but for a player of his caliber it is considerably lower than the possible free agent market value.
The minority of fans wonder if this is the right move, considering the Penguins lack of championships over the past four seasons, but it is clearly the correct move to make. A player of Evgeni Malkin’s caliber is not just traded away and this was clearly the proper move to make.
Kris Letang Cashes In
A young, powerful, fast, and excellent puck moving defender is a luxury amongst NHL teams. They are not prototypical. They typically flash a type of brilliance that wins close games. Unfortunately, they also possess a lack of stay at home ability which makes them a liability in their own zone. Kris Letang has shown that when paired with a proper partner, he can be that pure luxury.
Despite having a so-so postseason defense wise, Letang was paired with three different regulars as partners. When paired with a solid stay at home defenseman, Letang is able to have Norris caliber play. His resigning was a massive hit to the Penguins, an eight year 58million dollar deal, and forced them into a corner when it came to resigning some veteran free agents.
Rob Scuderi Returns
The piece, as Scuderi is affectionately referred to, has made his return to the only other team he knows. Signing Scuderi means the Penguins top four defensive pairings are set, he will most likely be paired with Letang to provide the necessary compliment to Letang’s style.
The signing of Scuderi does have some issues though. His AAV of 3.375 million per season eats up almost all of the remaining cap space that Pittsburgh had. This means that Pittsburgh will most likely trade one of their remaining defenseman that they deem expendable.
The most likely trade candidate is Matt Niskanen, whose AAV of 2.3 million is too much for a bottom pairing defenseman. He becomes even more expendable with the Penguins plethora of top notch defensive prospects. It is widely believed Niskanen will be moved for a depth forward or draft picks before the season starts.