Mar 25, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) handles the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Coyotes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

New Coach to be Factor in Matt Niskanen's Return?

Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Matt Niskanen – who was in my opinion the team’s MVP this past season – is set to hit the market this summer.

Although there still remains a chance the organization can re-sign him before Jul. 1 arrives, Pittsburgh is still without a head coach. And according to Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whoever is the new teacher will play a factor in Niskanen’s decision-making.

Dan Bylsma’s departure isn’t going to be the sole reason as to why he won’t return, but he will wait to see what new general manager Jim Rutherford does. Here’s what Niskanen reportedly told Yohe:

“Dan being dismissed won’t affect my decision. However, I will pay attention to what the coaching staff is going to look like. It’s not the only factor in the decision. But it’s a factor.”

Yohe reported that Niskanen may be more interested in what happens with one of the assistant coaches – Todd Reirden. Although not fired, Rutherford has given the Pens’ assistant coaches permission to speak with other clubs while they’re searching for a new head coach, and Reirden is said to have a close relationship with Niskanen.

Nonetheless, Reirden out the door or not, I feel it’s highly unlikely Pittsburgh retains Niskanen. He’s coming off arguably his best season ever, but the Pens just don’t got the funds to keep him. And with their system being flourished with defensive prospects, it makes Niskanen’s return look bleak.

Unless Pittsburgh can somehow manage to move Kris Letang’s bloated contract, they don’t even have a shot. Not with their cap space. And you hate to see a player like Niskanen go, because he truly was developing into one of the team’s top leaders.

We’ll see what happens though. To be continued.

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