In a bit of a surprise, the Pittsburgh Penguins and winger Bryan Rust signed a long-term extension. After initial reports from TSN and Darren Dreger, PHN confirmed the story.
UPDATE: The Penguins announced at 9 p.m. that they signed Rust to a six-year, $30.75 million deal ($5.125 million AAV).
Sources told PHN that talks accelerated over the last two days.
“Bryan exemplifies what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin,” said GM Ron Hextall. “Since being drafted by Pittsburgh, he has developed into a versatile player and leader on our team, capable of contributing in any situation. His leadership qualities and experience as a two-time Stanley Cup champion is an important piece of our team.”
Rust’s four-year contract carried a salary-cap hit of $3.5 million annually and is set to expire in July. Rust, 30, has outperformed his current contract, especially over the last three seasons. Rust scored 27, 22, and 24 goals over the past three seasons.
The two-time Stanley Cup Champion (2016, ’17) had a career year. He recorded a career-best 58 points (24-34-58) in 60 games. His 34 assists, nine power-play goals, and 21 power-play points were also career highs. Rust was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month in January 2022, when he tallied 10 goals, 11 assists, and 21 points in 11 games, leading the league with a 1.91 points-per-game average (min. 2 GP).
“It’s just getting to a point where I feel like I’ve gotten what I’ve earned and what I’m worth,” he said on breakup day. “I feel like I’ve played to a higher level than what my contract said the last few years.”
At multiple points in the season, first-hand sources told PHN that only cursory talks had taken place. However, in the last 48 hours, things between Rust’s camp and GM Ron Hextall moved quickly.
“I’m not looking to rob anyone,” Rust said on Tuesday. “I just want what I deem is fair. Get a reasonable contract. … I’d like to think something’s going to get worked out here.”
Bryan Rust Contract Analysis:
The Pittsburgh Penguins will keep their most signable big-name free agent and keep their dominant top-line intact.
The contract is reminiscent of the five-year deal former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford gave to winger Patric Hornqvist. However, two years into the deal, salary cap constraints and a crowded power-play unit forced the Penguins to trade Hornqvist to Florida for Mike Matheson.
That deal worked well for both sides. It seems the Penguins are gambling again on an invaluable player who plays a gritty and productive two-way game. Rust has added offense from both the top line and Malkin’s line.
The deal was lower than the $6 million annually, which was rumored through the season. It speaks to Rust’s willingness to compromise so that he could stick around. For the lower AAV, he got an extra year, or two, of security.
Rust probably doesn’t finish the contract with the Penguins. His gritty play and speed may decline into his mid-30s, and eventually, the Penguins may need to rebuild. However, at least for the next three years, the Penguins have a great top line with Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Rust.
Call it a good deal for the Crosby era.