Hours after the date of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s arbitration hearing was released, the Penguins announced they and Oleksiak agreed to a three-year deal with an average annual value of $2,137,500.
The deal avoids arbitration and will run through the 2020-21 season. Oleksiak, 25, was acquired by the Penguins in December from the Dallas Stars for a 2019 fourth-round selection. The 6-foot-7 defenseman was the Stars’ first-round choice (14th overall) in 2011. In 47 games with the Penguins, Oleksiak scored 14 points (4g, 10a) and had 69 penalty minutes.
In the absence of Ian Cole, who was dealt to Columbus, through Ottawa, in the complex Derick Brassard trade, Oleksiak became the Penguins physical presence on the blue line. He had 138 hits, which tied him for 10th in the NHL over that 47 game span.
In the playoffs, Oleksiak initially saw reduced ice time but regained a prominent place among the Penguins defensemen as the playoffs progressed. He had one goal in 12 playoff games.
Oleksiak was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Penguins bought out two years of Oleksiak’s free agency years.
It’s a super get for the Penguins and at a bargain price. Oleksiak showed tremendous growth with the Penguins and serves dual roles as the physical defenseman and the player who drops the gloves for teammates. In Round 2, it was Oleksiak who challenged Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson, after Wilson’s vicious hit concussed and broke Penguins rookie Zach Aston-Reese’s jaw.
As an RFA, Oleksiak could have received offer sheets from other teams, but the Penguins retained the right to match. Had another team signed Oleksiak to a deal less than $2.029 million, the Penguins would have received only a third-round pick. As PHN wrote last month, Oleksiak had a slight advantage to get a few more dollars from the Penguins.
And he did.
Oleksiak provides the physical presence but also has some offensive upside, though that is where his growth will be dangerous for the Penguins. When Oleksiak presses for offense, he can lose position and get caught up ice. His game is best when it is simple, and physical, in the defensive zone.
The Penguins locked up a player who should well outperform his contract in a couple of years. That’s a good investment. And Tom Wilson may pay the price next season.