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Brandon Tanev Earns Assist on Acciari Signing



Pittsburgh Penguins potentials, NHL free agents, Noel Acciari

Kyle Dubas brought Noel Acciari to Toronto at the trade deadline last season, and the relationship they formed during their short time together there was part of the reason Acciari accepted a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1.

But not the only one.

And perhaps not the biggest one.

Oh, during an online interview with the Pittsburgh media Tuesday, Acciari offered predictable praise for the Penguins’ personnel, and the success the franchise has had over most of the past two decades.

While all of that truly might have influenced him, it’s entirely possible — perhaps even likely — that it was input from a former Penguins winger that convinced him to sign here.

Acciari, you see, was a teammate of Brandon Tanev’s at Providence College, where they won a national championship. And while Tanev liked the idea of being reunited in Seattle, where he joined the Kraken in the 2021 expansion draft, he made it clear to Acciari that his blue-collar approach to his job would be well-received at PPG Paints Arena.

“He told me that I’m going to love it,” Acciari said. “And ‘they’re going to love you. I believe that’s a great fit for you guys.’ Much as he wanted me to come play with him in Seattle and reunite there, he had said that Pittsburgh has a special place in his heart.

” ‘You’re going to love it, and (Mike Sullivan) is going to love you.’ Everyone’s just going to love you, the way you play. It made the decision a lot easier, knowing that.”

Acciari allowed that Dubas overseeing the Pittsburgh Penguins’ on-ice operation “did have a big impact” on his decision to sign with them — “Kyle and I formed a bit of a relationship there at the end in Toronto, and he told me the plan for Pittsburgh,” Acciari said — but added that the men with whom he’ll be sharing a locker room factored into it, too.

“I played against these guys in Pittsburgh,” he said. “The caliber that they bring every year, it’s always tough to play against.”

Acciari, who got a three-year contract with a salary-cap hit of $2 million, had 14 goals and nine assists in 77 games with St. Louis and Toronto in 2022-23.

And while it’s reasonable to expect him to make occasional contributions to the offense — Acciari had 20 goals in 66 games while playing for Florida during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season — his primary value will be his ability to handle the standard bottom-six responsibilities: Mostly, to play well defensively.

“You win games (by) keeping pucks out of your net,” Acciari said.

Precisely where he’ll fit into the lineup probably won’t be settled until training camp, after Sullivan and his staff get a chance to evaluate how the many bottom-six candidates brought in during the offseason mesh.

But regardless of where that is, the game Acciari will bring should be easy to envision.

“I’m just going to play the way I play,” Acciari said. “Wherever I’m slotted in, I’m just going to give it 100 percent every game, every shift that I can.”

That should translate to things like blocking shots, killing penalties and playing the body, all staples of Acciari’s game since he broke into the NHL with Boston in 2015-16.

Upgrading the third and fourth lines has been a priority for Dubas after the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 16-year run of playoff appearances was snapped. A guy who plays the way Acciari does could help to stoke the competitive fires of his new teammates.

“We want to get back into that playoff mentality, get there again,” Acciari said. “The guys who have been here for a while, they know what it takes to win, and they weren’t happy with last year. Basically, we just want to get this year started so we can get back there as quick as possible.”