Despite the debate and question, Juuso Riikola cleared waivers on Saturday, and the Pittsburgh Penguins assigned him to the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins camp.
Last season, Riikola played in just two NHL games. He suffered an injury early in the season and was not available while opportunity existed.
Last season, he didn’t score a point in two games but had seven points (1-6-7) in 36 NHL games in 2019-20. In 2018-19, his rookie season, he scored five points (2-3-5) in 37 games. Overall, he played in 75 NHL games and scored 12 points.
Earlier in training camp, head coach Mike Sullivan gave the left-handed Riikola ice time on the right side, perhaps to address the Penguins’ need for a right-side defenseman on the third pairing. Riikola simply explained what he needed to do to crack the NHL lineup.
“I need to play better,” he deadpanned.
Riikola will get a chance to play with the WBS Penguins every night and perhaps finally get his North American game together in his fourth professional season. The Finnish defenseman signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018 when he was 24-years-old.
Riikola, 28, will count $100,000 against the Penguins’ salary cap. He is in the second year of a two-year, $2.3 million deal.
The Penguins also signed Michael Chaput to the WBS Penguins camp.
Chaput, 29, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Penguins on July 29. The former third-round pick scored the game-winning goal and added an assist in his only preseason game on Oct. 1 against Buffalo.
The Ile Bizard, Quebec native, spent the 2020-21 season in the Arizona Coyotes organization, mainly on the taxi squad. He’s played in 182 career NHL games over eight seasons with Arizona, Montreal, Vancouver, and Columbus.
The 6-foot-2 forward has been well-traveled in the AHL, too. He played for Springfield, Lake Erie, Utica, Laval, and Tuscan totaling 388 games with 259 points (109-150-388).