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Penguins Dish Cash to Riikola, Sign RFA to 2-Year Deal

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Pittsburgh Penguins Juuso Riikola

One week after signing depth right-side defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to an extension through 2021-22, the Pittsburgh Penguins dished the cash to depth left-side defenseman Juuso Riikola on Saturday. The Penguins gave Riikola, a two-year deal which will buy out one year of Riikola’s unrestricted free agency, according to Penguins GM Jim Rutherford.

Riikola, 26, will make $1 million this season and $1.3 next season. His cap hit will be the average of the two values, so he will count $1.15 million against the cap.

“When he is on his game, Juuso has shown the ability to be a solid contributor for our team,” said Rutherford. “We feel he is going to take the next step forward in his development.”

Riikola played in 36 games this season, including several games at forward. Injuries forced the Penguins coaches to insert Riikola as a fourth-line forward. The Finnish defenseman hasn’t yet consistently cracked the Penguins’ top-six defensemen in two years but he has remained in the NHL.

He scored seven points, including one goal.

Riikola played 37 games as a rookie, last season. He scored five points, including two goals.

Before the pandemic pause, Penguins team sources informed PHN that the Penguins were bullish on Riikola’s future, even though he was not in the lineup. Among the criticisms were defensive awareness and a feeling that Riiikola sometimes played too safe to the point of passive.

However, the Pittsburgh Penguins also believe Riikola has the potential to be an above-average NHL defenseman.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Ed Andrews
Ed Andrews
1 year ago

Does Riiko kind of play like MaTTA

Katz
Katz
1 year ago

The more I watch the Islanders the more I realize Pittsburgh’s chasing windmills. Trotz is in my opinion the best Coach in the NHL Their GM Lou Lamoriello made two trade deadline acquisitions Jean-Gabriel Pageau , had at least seven hits, and Andy Greene scored a goal! If the Isles make it the finals , and fave a physical Vegas team, the add Ross Johnston to nullify Ryan Reaves. Pittsburgh is making a huge mistake in denying reality. Malkin should have been moved. Barzel has Anders Lee , Crosby has had Domenik Simon and Conor Sheary. The Islanders 4th line… Read more »

Steven Pavlik
Steven Pavlik
1 year ago
Reply to  Katz

It’s a problem when a player like Zach Aston-Reese is your grittiest forward. The supporting cast is simply very poorly constructed, and that falls on the general manager, who should be called out roundly.

Josh James
Josh James
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Pavlik

He should be gone. The coach should have been gone last year when he straight up admitted that the players don’t listen to him… somehow that just slipped by everybody as if that isn’t the single most damning evidence and easily the top, undeniable reason any coach in any sport should immediately stop being that teams coach….and more evidence in missing the playoffs but the Pens are stuck by the contract the GM signed the coach to… Yeah I see the pattern

Josh James
Josh James
1 year ago
Reply to  Katz

God…you lost me at Malkin (our team MVP) should have been moved. Makes anything else you say irrelevant

Katz
Katz
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh James

There are two seasons in the NHL. Really the first is simply for ownership to make money and the games are played to enter the second season. Now the Playoffs are where performance really matters. Malkin’s last three playoff performances have been No Shows. The proof is in the Pudding. I wrote virtually the same thought after last years sweep. I was voted down then too. I do not want to be right . Regarding Rutherford – Sullivan they deserve the benefit of the doubt. But I am losing confidence Rutherford can navigate this period successfully. And Sullivan is morphing… Read more »

Josh James
Josh James
1 year ago

While I would love to keep Riikola this is simply a waste of a signing, cap space (every million counts) and sadly, 2 years of a wasted asset until the Penguins get a coach that doesn’t turn a massive blind eye to his favorites or invent phantom abstracts as to what the issue is keeping non favorites out of the lineup.Seriously, nothing about Riikola’s development has been beneficial. The message changes, he gets benched for making a mistake when he is asked to play a style that won’t allow him to play to his strengths (while playing against the best… Read more »

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