The opening of the National Hockey League’s free agency basically went as expected this year for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Everything went according to Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford’s plan, the team is (shockingly) still under the cap and there weren’t many surprises; except for the fact that they actually signed Jack Johnson.
Coming up to the big day, several rumours were going around about the Penguins looking for a certain defenseman from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, at that time they were only rumours. After seeing the history between Johnson and captain Sidney Crosby it was practically a done deal. Rutherford claims that Crosby had nothing to do with the negotiations.
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There are always teams that make big mistakes when the free agent market opens and this year, it’s safe to say the Penguins might be in that bracket. Although the real mistakes aren’t made until the new season begins, that’s 93 days away. It’s the offseason so we’re going to complain a little bit.
Signing a 31-year-old to a five-year deal worth over $16 million is beyond ridiculous. This is especially so for a general manager that has pulled off a miracle by bringing Phil Kessel to the team three years to the day.
So far the only thing positive about this deal is the feathers Rutherford has ruffled in the process.
An article for The Athletic by Aaron Portzline was released where Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella unloads on the Penguins general manager. Rutherford told reporters that Johnson didn’t have a bad year in his opinion, “He was a healthy scratch at the end of last season. I know the reason why. It wasn’t because of how he was playing.”
Only naturally would this set off the most explosive coach in the NHL. So, Tortorella’s response? “Rutherford should shut the fuck up.”
Other Notable Signings
Another key signing of the day was Matt Cullen. While some seemed to be over the whole “dad is coming home” charade, it wasn’t a bad deal. He may be 41-years-old but he signed a one-year deal for the league minimum at $650,000. Cullen offers the Penguins a solid and reliable veteran presence on the fourth line.
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The Penguins also signed four other players to contracts on Sunday. Forward Jimmy Hayes, defensemen Zach Trotman and Stefan Elliott, and goaltender John Muse all signed one-year, two-way contracts. All four signed deals with an average annual value of $650,000 at the NHL level.