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Pens re-sign Bryan Rust for 4 years, a look at the salary cap implications

Pittsburgh locks up an important supporting player for four more years!

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

Bryan Rust is no longer set to be a restricted free agent, the Penguins have signed him for four more years at a salary cap hit of $3.5 million. From a team release:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Bryan Rust to a four-year contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The deal runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and it carries an average annual value of $3.5 million.

Rust, 26, finished off a career year in the 2017-18 regular season, setting highs in assists (25) and points (38) in 69 games. He had three goals in 12 playoff games during the 2018 postseason. Rust played some of his best hockey in the second half, when he returned from injury on January 23 and proceeded to record 20 points (9G-11A) and a plus-17 over his final 31 games. Three of his nine goals in that span were game-winners.

Already a two-time Stanley Cup champion, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Rust has proven to be a clutch playoff performer with 11 points (10G-1A) in 18 career playoff elimination games. He added to that stat in the 2018 playoffs, scoring goals against Philadelphia in Games 5 and 6 during the Penguins’ First Round series victory.

A native of Pontiac, Michigan, Rust had a helping hand in a pair of Stanley Cups, scoring the series-clinching game-winning goals against Columbus and Washington in the 2017 postseason. He also scored both of Pittsburgh’s goals in the 2-1 Game 7 defeat of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final. He became the fourth player in NHL history to have his first three career game-winners clinch a series. His six goals in the 2016 postseason run are second-most by a rookie in club history.

$3.5 million is a significant salary cap hit for Rust. The Penguins are obviously betting on and banking on him improving off of 2017-18 numbers where he set personal season-bests in games played (69) and points (38).

Related: Bryan Rust 2017-18 season review

Then again, Rust’s contract now isn’t much different than one Carl Hagelin signed three summers ago (under a smaller salary cap back then too) for $4.0 million. Clearly once a player gets towards the magic age for unrestricted free agency, his salary is going to go up, up, up.

After this signing, Pittsburgh now has 12 forwards under contract for next season, to go along with 6 defensemen and 2 goalies. That’s basically a full team, though they’re a little light on center and defense at the moment. The current roster outlook looks something like this (via Cap Friendly)

That’s a total cap hit situation of $75.2 million spoken for, which means the team has $4,282,500 in cap space under the new upper limit of $79.5 million. They would like to re-sign RFA-to-be defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and UFA-to-be Riley Sheahan and appear to have just enough room to do so. Any further trade or free agent addition would mean some sort of reduction by moving a player listed above.