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Aston-Reese, Zohorna Get Qualifying Offers; Jankowski, Miletic, 2 More Released

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Pittsburgh Penguins Zach Aston-Reese

The Pittsburgh Penguins preserved the rights to RFA forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Radim Zohorna on Monday afternoon, ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline to submit qualifying offers. By doing so, the Penguins keep the rights to both players though Aston-Reese is eligible for arbitration.

Per NHL CBA rules, the Penguins only needed to offer Aston-Reese $1 million to retain his rights.

Forwards Mark Jankowski, Sam Miletic, defenseman Jesper Lindgren, and goaltender Emil Larmi will not receive qualifying offers and will become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday, July 28. The Penguins can re-sign any of them if they choose.

Larmi, a championship goalie in Finland, already said goodbye via Instagram posts in May and will return to Finland to resume his career. His two-year stay in North America was marked by injuries, personable interviews, and inconsistent play.

Jankowski was a free-agent acquisition last offseason. He signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Penguins after the Calgary Flames non-tendered the 6-foot-4 center. Jankowski had 11 points (4-7-11) in 45 games.

Lindgren was part of the Pittsburgh Penguins trade receipt in the Kasperi Kapanen deal. The 24-year-old Swedish defenseman played in the SWE-1 league, a step below the Swedish Elite League. He posted decent numbers, including 18 points in 25 games, but that was the Swedish minor league.

Aston-Reese figures to get a new contract from the Penguins. PHN has estimated his value, based on past comparables and Penguins GM Ron Hextall’s stated cap space at just over $2 million. Aston-Reese and the Penguins brass nearly went to arbitration two years ago, but both sides agreed to a two-year, $2 million deal just before the proceedings began in New York.

Last season, Aston-Reese set a career-best with nine goals. He scored 16 points as the Penguins line with Teddy Blueger, and the now-Seattle Kraken Brandon Tanev set high-water marks offensively while competing against the opposition’s top lines.

Last season, Radim Zohorna played his first year in North America. The 25-year-old Czech forward was a free agent signing who spent most of the season with the WBS Penguins but did score his first NHL goal on March 25. At 6-foot-6, Zohorna stands out on the ice, and the Pittsburgh Penguins organization is working with the big forward to use his size and become more physically engaged.

Zohorna scored four points (2-2-4) in eight NHL games.

NHL free agency begins on Wednesday.

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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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