Free agency kicked off on Saturday at noon and it was a day fill with goodbyes and a few hellos for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Leaving town were Nick Bonino (Nashville Predators), Trevor Daley (Detroit Red Wings), Ron Hainsey (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Chris Kunitz (Tampa Bay Lightning). Joining the Pens on Saturday were defenseman Matt Hunwick and goaltender Antti Niemi on a three deal and one year deal respectively. The day also featured one key piece staying put right here in Pittsburgh. Defenseman Justin Schultz signed a new three deal worth $5.5 million per season.
Of all the players who signed elsewhere on Saturday, Chris Kunitz was far and away the most emotional of the departures. Kunitz has been with the Pens franchise since 2009 and won three Stanley Cups during his time in Pittsburgh. While he is at peace with his decision, the gritty forward is going to miss everything the city has to offer. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Joining the Pens on Saturday was veteran defenseman Matt Hunwick who signed after spending last season in Toronto. At the moment, it appears Hunwick was brought it to fill the hole left by the departure of Trevor Daley. It’s a role that the veteran feels comfortable with. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Another few face added early during the free agency period was goaltender Antti Niemi. Coming off the worst statistical season of his career, Niemi signed a one year deal to serve as the back up to Matt Murray while Tristan Jarry continues to develop in the AHL. [The Hockey Writers]
With center Nick Bonino on his way to Nashville, the Penguins now officially have a glaring hole at the third line center position. Rumors began circling early last week that general manager Jim Rutherford was closing in on Bonino’s replacement. The weekend came and went with no deal made but Rutherford made it clear he is will not be forced into a bad trade to fill the hole. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Perhaps the biggest splash the Pens made over the weekend was the signing of defenseman Justin Schultz to a new three deal to keep him in Pittsburgh. Since coming over in a trade from the Edmonton Oilers, Schultz has revitalized his career and proven his worth as one of the team’s best blue liners. [NBC Sports]
After nothing but struggles during his time in Edmonton, Schultz proved that sometimes all one needs is a change in scenery to become the player everyone expected him to be. In Pittsburgh, Schultz has regained his confidence and playing at the highest level in his career. [Penguins]
While Rutherford and crew were taking care of business on their end, Mark Recchi and the player development team were wrapping up their annual development camp for prospects. Forward Daniel Sprong was one of many young players who showed they are ready to take the next step in their careers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
News and notes from around the NHL...
Carey Price signed an eight year extension to remain with the Montreal Canadiens and Patrick Marleau left the only home he has ever known to sign a three deal with the Maple Leafs. Overall, this was a big weekend for the Canadian franchises. [CBC]
On Sunday, the Washington Capitals announced the signing of restricted free agent Evgeni Kuznetsov to an eight year deal. To free up cap space, the Caps traded forward Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils. [CSN]