Mar 4, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) brings the puck up ice during the third period at Bridgestone Arena. The Penguins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Mike Strasinger-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Reirden's Departure May Spark Matt Niskanen's as Well

Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford doesn’t expect to retain defenseman Matt Niskanen, per Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

And after hearing assistant coach Todd Reirden won’t return to the Pens’ coaching staff next season, it could eliminate any hope at re-signing Niskanen.

Earlier this month, Niskanen told Yohe that Dan Bylsma’s dismissal wouldn’t affect his decision to return to the club, however, that he would keep an eye on what the coaching staff will look like. Niskanen is said to have a close tie with Bylsma, but an even closer one with Reirden, per Yohe.

Niskanen even went as far as to state Reirden saved his career, which is some high praise for an assistant.

Yet, Niskanen reportedly isn’t seeking the richest offer in free agency either. So, while Rutherford claims they’re no match for opposing suitors, there’s still slight hope Niskanen will remain in the black and gold next season. It’s just the departure of Reirden isn’t helping their chances.

However, because of Pittsburgh’s new direction mindset, they may be gun shy in giving Niskanen any sort of substantial amount after seeing how poorly Kris Letang’s has worked out thus far. That, and the team has way more holes at the forward position, and they’ll probably look to make that their top priority this offseason.

Niskanen is their biggest unrestricted free agent, and it would be outstanding to see Pittsburgh bring him back because of the type of leader he’s molded into, but his potential new deal isn’t necessary given the amount of defensive talent in their system.

With Rutherford’s comments and Reirden’s dismissal, Niskanen’s return is looking quite bleak at this point in the game.

Niskanen registered 46 points (10G, 36A) and skated to a phenomenal plus-33 rating in 81 regular-season contests, while collecting nine points (2G, 7A) in 13 playoff tilts.

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