The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Mark Eaton for the rest of the season. From the team release:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Mark Eaton to a one-year contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.
The deal has an average annual value of $725,000.
Eaton, 35, rejoins the Penguins for his second stint after previously playing four seasons with the team between 2006-10. He was a member of the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup championship squad and he helped the team reach the ’08 Cup Final.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound blueliner appeared in 218 regular-season games with Pittsburgh, tallying seven goals, 24 assists and 31 points with a plus-eight rating. He added 10 points (4G-6A) in 42 playoff contests.
For the team, it's a move they've been considering for a while. Eaton was signed to a player tryout (PTO) contract and played six games recently for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens in the AHL. From their, Eaton has been skating and practicing with the Pens, awaiting word if they would sign him.
So why do it? The Pens have lost Brian Strait to waivers and Ben Lovejoy to a trade lately, they could use the depth that Eaton would provide.
Also, as we hinted in the Ups and Downs, the third pair is barely playing these days. Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Deryk Engelland, the lower ranked defensemen are all playing 12-13 minutes a night on the season, and at times are playing less than that.
Compare that to Eaton, who was a third pairing defenseman in 2009 and played an average of 18:09 in the playoffs.
Eaton is also a veteran and has logged time on the penalty kill below. Currently, the third pairing defensemen don't have a lot of special teams capabilities, so adding a guy who can eat a few tougher minutes is always a good thing.
We'll see how the Pens go about this- it's seemed like Despres was ticketed for the minors since the beginning of training camp, but he's remained in the NHL all season. Hopefully for his development's sake he won't be sitting in press boxes for very long.