Pens sign star college goalie Eric Hartzell

Justin K. Aller

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed 23 year old goaltender, and Hobey Baker finalist Eric Hartzell.

From the team:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed goaltender Eric Hartzell, to a one-year entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.

The deal runs through the 2012-13 season and has an average annual value of $925,000.

Hartzell, 23, led Quinnipiac University to the school’s first-ever Frozen Four appearance this past weekend at CONSOL Energy Center. Hartzell helped the Bobcats reach Saturday night’s championship game.

The 6-foot-4, 187-pound netminder was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top college hockey player this season after posting a 30-7-5 record, 1.57 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in 42 starts.

We'll see how this goes, but it's definitely another feather in the Penguins cap for signing a collegiate free agent. In the past they've been able to lure in John Curry and Brad Thiessen as highly regarded college free agents.

For Hartzell, it must make sense too. Marc-Andre Fleury is well established as the #1 goaltender, but is also 28 years old and has a contract through 2014-15. Veteran backup Tomas Vokoun is 36 (37 this summer) and has one more year on his contract in 2013-14 before becoming a free agent. For Hartzell, if he can prove himself next season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he could be in line to be the backup in 2014-15. From there, who knows.

Sometimes goalies bloom later than other position players and Hartzell was definitely the top goalie in college hockey this season. Then again, so was Thiessen who was also a Hobey Baker finalist before signing with Pittsburgh. We'll see if Hartzell will have an NHL career or not, but any time a team can add a top talent for free, it's got to be a good thing.

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