Beginning on Jan. 1, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marcus Pettersson were officially able to begin contract negotiations, and an NHL source confirmed to Pittsburgh Hockey Now that the Penguins have begun those discussions on a long-term contract with Pettersson.
However, nothing is imminent and neither side is taking anything for granted.
The source also confirmed the Penguins have specifically communicated to Pettersson, 23, that a deal this time, “is a priority.” The team hoped to sign the restricted free agent to a long-term deal over the summer, but Pettersson was forced to sign his qualifying offer, which was a one-year, $874,125 deal just a few days before the start of the regular season because the Penguins could not clear enough salary-cap space.
There were heavily rumored trades but nothing came to fruition.
Pettersson will again be a restricted free agent this summer but it sounds like both sides would like to avoid another protracted situation. The 6-foot-3, 177-pound Pettersson has become a consistent defender on the Penguins blue line with a quick breakout pass.
In October, a national outlet strongly hinted that the two sides had agreed to a deal, but that is not the case. Our source did not indicate the two sides are close but expressed optimism the early start and willingness of both sides would this time get a deal done.
The Penguins have just under $60 million committed to 15 players for 2020-21. Both goalies, Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry will be restricted free agents, as are forwards Jared McCann, Dominik Kahun, Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi and Dominik Simon. Defenseman Justin Schultz will be an unrestricted free agent.
The Penguins are currently mixing and matching a lineup due to one of the most heavily injured rosters in the NHL. Pettersson has 15 points (1g, 14a) in 41 games and has played most often on the Penguins second pairing with Schultz. However, in Schultz’s absence due to injury, Pettersson has played with rookie defenseman John Marino.
Saturday night, Pettersson also had his fifth NHL fight, according to hockeyfights.com. The Penguins defenseman poke-checked a scoring chance away from Montreal forward Max Domi, who then initiated the fighting majors. Pettersson handled himself well in the scrap.
The Penguins acquired Pettersson from the Anaheim Ducks in Dec. 2018 for fading prospect Daniel Sprong. Pettersson struggled to get ice time in Anaheim while the Penguins decreasingly used Sprong.
This season, Sprong has played just one game for Anaheim, and 26 games for San Diego of the AHL.
The Penguins earned their 25th win of the season and concluded the first half of their schedule with a 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center on Saturday night. Marcus Pettersson earned an assist on Brandon Tanev’s game-winning goal.