The Pittsburgh Penguins added 28-year-old bottom line left winger Derek Grant, Thursday. The former Anaheim Duck signed a one-year deal worth $650,000, according to the Penguins press release.
In 2017-18, Grant had a career year with the Ducks. He scored his first career NHL goal after 92 games, on Oct. 20. Last season, Grant totaled 12 goals and 12 assists while playing fourth-line, left wing duty. He also filled in as the Ducks top line center when both Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kessler were injured through much of November. Grants scored six points (2g, 4a) in November, and the Ducks struggled to a 5-6-3 record.
Three of Grant’s 12 goals were power-play markers. He also averaged 49 seconds per game, shorthanded and won 53 percent of his faceoffs.
As the current Penguins roster is constructed, Grant would be the fifth or sixth center on the Penguins depth chart behind Riley Sheahan and Matt Cullen. The scouting report on Grant is that he is a versatile, defensively responsible forward. He could be a valuable pivot if injuries mount. In his sixth professional season, Grant will have his best opportunity to earn ice time on a lower line left wing.
At very least, the Penguins have added more competition for forwards Jimmy Hayes, who signed a two-way contract, and Dominik Simon. Grant is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He can be a strong player but doesn’t necessarily seek the physical game. Until last season, he struggled to stay in NHL lineups with Ottawa, Calgary, Buffalo, and Nashville.
The Penguins roster is now full with 23 players, and they have just $1.02 million of cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. Unless the Penguins make a trade, the move appears to close the door on Teddy Blueger making the NHL roster. The Penguins didn’t need a 23rd forward which raises eyebrows, though Grant is certainly a capable player. Currently, Matt Cullen and Riley Sheahan are slated for fourth line center and left wing.
The move could also allow the Penguins greater leeway to try center Derick Brassard on the left wing. Carl Hagelin would become the third line left winger, and Sheahan would elevate to the third line.
It will be interesting to see if a trade is in the works, or if Grant pushes Dominik Simon, Sheahan or Cullen to the press box. Since this signing was relatively unnecessary, eyes may shift to Jim Rutherford and trade chatter. Grant could well be insurance or depth which gives the Penguins more flexibility.
Restricted Free Agent goaltender Tristan Jarry, 23, also remains unsigned.