The Pittsburgh Penguins dipped into the free-agent market Friday to sign former Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski to a one-year, $700,000 contract, according to GM Jim Rutherford.
Jankowski, 26, has size at 6-feet-4, 212 pounds, and is considered strong defensively. Whether he is the answer as the Penguins’ third-line center remains to be seen, but he might at least be given a shot there.
“Mark is another versatile player that gives us an option at the center position,” said Rutherford. “His added experience on the penalty kill, where he has had success over the last few seasons, makes him a good fit for our team.”
He was unrestricted but became an unrestricted free agent when the Flames declined to give him a qualifying offer, which apparently would have been a bigger number than they could handle. The Calgary Sun did a good job of chronicling Jankowski’s situation.
Jankowski was a first-round pick, 21st overall, by Calgary in 2012. He had 25 points in 2017-18, 32 points the following season but then had a forgettable 2019-20. He fell off big-time with five goals, seven points in 56 games and was a minus-12. He could be another of the Penguins’ reclamation projects, even those have tended to be defensemen.
PHN Analysis from Dan Kingerski
The price was right, but Jankowski’s performance last season was not. Seven points in 56 games are not only light, but the total is a bad omen. Much like Riley Sheahan, whom the Penguins acquired to fill the third-line center role, Jankowski will have to rebound quickly. Sheahan never rebounded after a nearly goalless 2016-17.
Like Evan Rodrigues, whom the Penguins also signed on Friday, Jankowski will make the league minimum.
Jankowski has good hands and a good hockey IQ. Before his catastrophic slump last season, the big pivot had an 18-goal, 32-point season two seasons ago, and scored 25 points three seasons ago. The talent is there, but on a better Calgary team, he receded into the background.
Jankowski hasn’t been an impact player. The Penguins haven’t risked much, nor should they expect to recoup much.