The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t make the blockbuster deal on Sunday, but they locked up their resident pot stir when they signed defenseman Mark Friedman to a two-year deal.
The new contract, which begins next season, carries a $775,000 AAV.
Friedman was GM Ron Hextall’s first acquisition after Hextall was hired in February 2021. Hextall, the former Philadelphia Flyers GM, snagged Friedman off waivers from the Flyers.
While Friedman has missed a couple of opportunities to establish himself as an NHL regular because he, too, suffered an injury when openings existed. The 26-year-old defender excited teammates and fans with his recent run ahead of Marcus Pettersson in the Penguins lineup.
“Friedman is an impactful defenseman who has strong offensive instincts and plays with an edge,” said Hextall. “He’s added depth to our defense corps, and we are excited to see his continued development over the next two years.”
Friedman has played 20 games this season, a career-high. He also has career-highs in assists (4), points (5), and game-winning goals (1). His only goal this season was on March 11 against Vegas. It stood as his first career game-winning goal.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound defenseman has drawn 12 penalties, with his 2.62 penalties drawn-per-60 average ranking seventh in the NHL (min. 10 GP).
Teammate Bryan Rust recently complimented Friedman, “He’s a wild man,” Rust smiled.
Friedman was especially good when the Penguins dismantled the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 4 at Amalie Arena.
“I tend to go after the biggest guys on the ice, which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but that’s just me. And again, if I can draw a penalty out of it, like we did going into the third, then so be it,” Friedman said that night.
“Maybe next time we play them, they’ll have a picture of me in their room or something, but whatever. Just being me, and that’s how I play the game.”
Friedman also acquitted himself well when he was inserted into the lineup ahead of Pettersson when the Penguins beat the first-place Carolina Hurricanes two Sundays ago at PPG Paints Arena.
This season, Friedman has five points (1-4-5) in 20 games.
Mark Friedman has played in only 36 NHL games, including a couple at forward for Philadelphia. While he’s 26-years-old, his NHL development is still a work in progress. However, he’ll get to do it with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, assistant coach Todd Reirden, and the Penguins now have some security with depth players.
In February, fellow defenseman Chad Ruhwedel signed a two-year deal with an $800,000 AAV.
Friedman’s contract will cover one year of his unrestricted free agency, and pay him $800,000 in the second year.
The #Pens re-signed 26 y/o RD Mark Friedman to 2 year $775K Cap Hit Deal:
Yr 1 $750K
Yr 2 $800K
Deal covers 1 UFA year. Was in Year 2/2 $725K deal & pending RFA.
5P in 20GP
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) March 20, 2022