The U.S. Federal government is ending the unemployment bonus in September, so more than a few folks will need to fill the many open jobs, though a few NHL players may be unemployed a little longer as teams wait until closer to training camp to scoop up last-minute bargains. Several former Pittsburgh Penguins are still on the market, a few others have signed healthy contracts, and one former Penguins fan favorite is probably headed for the beach.
By the beach, I mean retirement.
Using the player availability from NHL.com’s official tracker:
Former Pittsburgh Penguins in Free Agency:
Frederick Gaudreau: Former Penguins AGM, now Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin, signed Gaudreau to a two-year, $1.2 million AAV deal to be his fourth-line center.
Cody Ceci: Four years, $14 million with the Edmonton Oilers.
Kevin Czuczman: Signed with Minnesota Wild, two-way deal.
Stanley Cup Winners:
Nick Bonino: Signed a two-year, $4.1 million deal with the San Jose Sharks, where he pencils in as an upgrade for third-line center. As things shake out, he’ll probably skate with Rudolfs Balcers and an undetermined LW. This is Bonino’s second time on the Pacific coast. The middle of the famed H-B-K line played for the Vancouver Canucks when former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford acquired him in the Brandon Sutter deal in 2016.
We’ll take any chance to use this still hilarious video from an old friend of PHN, Harrison Mooney, “Holding Out for Bonino”:
Ian Cole: Signed a one-year, $2.9 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The 32-year-old defenseman will play for his third team in 12 months after the Colorado Avalanche shipped him to the Minnesota Wild to clear space for their young defensemen early last season.
It’s Been a While:
Jarred Tinordi: The New York Rangers added plenty of grit this offseason. Washington Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson single-handedly wrecked them in one game late last season. So, new Rangers GM Chris Drury signed tough defenseman Jarred Tinordi to a two-year, $1.8 million contract (and acquired “Sheriff” Ryan Reaves). Tinordi spent one season in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization (2017-18) but didn’t play an NHL game. He played for Boston last season and was the player who hit Evgeni Malkin, which caused the knee injury.
Alex Goligoski: So long ago, I don’t remember when. That’s when they say I lost my only friend. The Minnesota Wild again factor into a former Penguin’s new address. Goligoski signed a one-year, $5 million deal.
Goligoski was a young Penguins defenseman with promise and puck skills. In 2011, former Penguins GM Ray Shero traded Goligoski to the Dallas Stars for Matt Niskanen and James Neal. Both Neal and Niskanen would have stellar Penguins careers. Neal was traded for Patric Hornqvist in 2015. Niskanen departed for the Washington Capitals in the same offseason.
Brandon Sutter: The aforementioned Brandon Sutter re-signed with Vancouver for one year, $1.125 million after the conclusion of his five-year, $21.875 million deal, which he signed immediately after the Penguins traded him for Bonino.
Greg McKegg: New York Rangers. Remember when McKegg was a potential Penguins third-line center in the summer of 2017? He’s been a useful fourth-line center, though a bubble NHL player.
Adam Clendening: Philadelphia Flyers
J.S. Dea: Montreal Canadiens
James Neal: He may or may not find NHL employment for this season. His wrister has declined, and his stats have plummeted. Except for an exceptional two-week hot streak a couple of seasons ago, Neal, 33, has been absent from the score sheets far too often. He has 60 points over the last three seasons, including a 19-point season (7-12-19) with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19, and scored just 10 points in 29 games last season.
He scored an astounding 185 points (89-95) with the Penguins in 199 games, largely playing beside Evgeni Malkin. Neal scored a career-high 40 goals in 2011-12.
Marian Hossa: An unfitting end to one of the greatest two-way wingers of all time. The Penguins acquired Hossa at the 2008 NHL trade deadline but lost in the Stanley Cup Final. Hossa jumped ship to the Cup victor–the Detroit Red Wings, but the Penguins beat Hossa and Detroit for the Stanley Cup the following season.
Hossa had a string of playoff failures before joining the Penguins, including the wrong end of several playoff upsets with the Ottawa Senators. He finally lifted the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. He won three Cups with Chicago, but a medical condition prematurely ended his career after the 2016-17 season.
The 12-year contract he signed with Chicago in the summer of 2009, and his four-year LTIR stay finally ended this summer.
Matt Niskanen: He retired at 33-years-old last October before the beginning of the COVID campaign. Niskanen played his final season for the Philadelphia Flyers, who acquired him from the Washington Capitals for Radko Gudas.
Niskanen scored 85 points (19-66-85) in 214 games with the Penguins. He won a Stanley Cup with Washington in 2017-18.
Unemployed former Pittsburgh Penguins:
Derrick Brassard, Erik Gudbranson, Riley Sheahan, Mark Jankowski, Colton Sceviour, Dominik Kahun, Alex Galchenyuk, Carter Rowney, Scott Wilson, Joseph Blandisi, Jack Johnson, Derrick Pouliot, Patrick Marleau, Stefan Noesen.
Some of these names jump out at you, no? The Brassard trade will forever be infamous, as will Johnson and Pouliot. At least Wilson and Rowney have Stanley Cup rings.