CRANBERRY — It took a while for the Pittsburgh Penguins to begin making moves on Saturday, the first day of NHL free agency, but once they started, president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas unleashed them fast and furious with five moves in one hour later Saturday afternoon. The latest was signing bottom-six center Lars Eller to a two-year deal.
Eller, 34, spent seven-plus seasons with the Washington Capitals, winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. He spent the last 22 games of 2022-23 with the Colorado Avalanche. Combined, Eller scored 23 points, including 10 goals in 84 games last season.
Dubas indicated the Eller signing was “really, really key” and “rounds out our top-nine.”
Eller will slot behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The fourth-line center will be a contested position in training camp, with newly signed Noel Accairi, Sam Poulin, and Jeff Carter among the potential winners.
The move technically put the Penguins about $1.5 million over the salary cap, but Dubas dismissed those worries, “internally, we know we’re well under the salary cap.”
Eller, from Denmark, is a warrior-type center, frequently in the dirty areas, and a stout defensive pivot. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he will add size and grit to the Penguins lineup, which also received a burst of physicality Saturday when Dubas signed Noel Acciari, too. Eller has played 954 NHL games with 371 points and 163 goals, including 87 of those with Washington. He was the St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick (13th overall) in 2007.