Mid-summer but a couple of important developments again for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
First, the team announced that Sergei Gonchar is now a full-time assistant coach! From the team:
"I had been playing all my life and when I started working as a coach I didn't know what to expect or how it was going to be," he said. "But the organization, including the players, made it easier for me."
As defensemen coach, Gonchar worked closely with Pittsburgh's blue line, utilizing extensive use of video to coach and teach the players. When he attended games, he would watch from the media level with former goaltending coach Mike Bales and go to the locker room during intermissions.
Head coach Mike Sullivan called Gonchar "invaluable" during this most recent postseason, especially in working with the team's young defensemen. He played an important role in helping them get through an influx of injuries late in the season and throughout the playoffs. It's been an enjoyable experience for Gonchar watching both the individuals and the team have such success.
Seems wild that just two years ago Gonchar was trying to make the team in training camp, now he’s fully moving over to the coaching side of the game. He won’t be on the bench, but watching games from the press box.
Secondly, the team announced they have signed Josh Archibald and Derrick Pouliot. Again from the Pens:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Josh Archibald and defenseman Derrick Pouliot, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
Both players signed one-way contracts. Archibald's contract is a two-year deal that contains an average annual value of $675,000. Pouliot inked a one-year deal with an average annual value of $800,000.
For the millionth time, one-way simply means the player earns that salary whether he plays in the NHL or AHL. It’s a big victory and step up for a player (Archibald made a $70k salary for his time in the minors last year, so earning $675k is obviously a huge leap up in the tax bracket).
Both of these players will be waiver-eligible next season, but that is a factor of their age and experience, not this contract.
Signing young, unestablished NHL players like Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and Tom Kuhnhackl to two-year contracts has worked out well for the Pens in the past, so nice to see them continue this strategy. If it works, they’ve got two more years of a talent on the cheap. If it doesn’t, it’s merely a hit to the team’s financials and bottom line, but does no damage to the salary cap. Also, for an outside team that potentially sees Archibald on waivers, with him owed $675k for 2 seasons) might mean shying away from claiming him, due to that heavy financial responsibility. Giving this contract makes Archibald a less attractive waiver pickup, which may be a positive.
For Pouliot, well, it’s make or break time anyways. Nice things have been said about him from the front office, just like every year, but the proof will be in the pudding. How much opportunity will he have to play? How much will Mike Sullivan trust him? Or utilize him? A lot seems up in the air, especially with 6 NHL veterans firmly ahead of Pouliot (Letang, Dumoulin, Schultz, Maatta, Cole and Hunwick) not to mention the play of Chad Ruhwedel.
Neither Archibald nor Pouliot had arbitration rights, so they pretty much had to come back for whatever Pittsburgh wanted. Getting these one-way deals is a pretty good win for the player, but for the team it’s below the cap threshold, so it’s also not bad to retain some youth for a low overall price.