There isn’t much money in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ available salary cap pool. With Zach Trotman in place of Marcus Petterson, the Penguins have about $1.5 million but assuming Trotman is assigned to the AHL, the Penguins have about $2.3 million. Eligible restricted free agents could file for arbitration beginning Friday and Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese was among the first 40 filers. Forward Teddy Blueger apparently declined.
The deadline for arbitration requests was 5 p.m., Friday.
Blueger’s representatives could not be reached for comment Friday, however, Aston-Reese is confirmed to have filed. Hearings typically begin in late July. Minor league forward Adam Johnson, who had a short stint with the Penguins late in the regular season, also declined to file.
Last season, Aston-Reese, 24, again had trouble staying healthy but had streaks of note-worthy play, including ascending to the Penguins second line with Evgeni Malkin before being injured at the end of a fight in February, when his opponent fell on his arm and hand.
In 43 games, Aston-Reese notched 17 points including eight goals. He began the season with the Penguins AHL affiliate as the team auditioned young prospect Daniel Sprong who was no longer waiver exempt. Aston-Reese scored nine points (6g, 3a) in 11 games before being called up to the NHL. Soon after, Aston-Reese supplanted Sprong on the Penguins fourth line and earned regular playing time.
The Penguins third RFA, Marcus Petterson was not eligible to file for arbitration because he signed his entry-level deal at 19-years-old, while Aston-Reese and Blueger signed in their 20s.
General Manager Jim Rutherford said during his July 1 press conference that Blueger “has established himself as a regular NHL player.” However, his declination to file gives him more flexibility in negotiations but also removes the player’s ability to be awarded a contract.
Last season, Blueger played his first 28 NHL games. He scored 10 points mainly from a fourth line role. However, he was pushed to wing and is production was not equal to his time in the middle. Blueger figures to become the Penguins fourth line center if he re-signs.