The Penguins have made few depth signings on this first day of the free agency period. From a team release:
Pittsburgh signed forward Jimmy Hayes, defensemen Zach Trotman and Stefan Elliott, and goaltender John Muse. Trotman spent last year with the Pittsburgh organization, playing most of the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and three NHL games with the Penguins.
All four deals contain an average annual value of $650,000 at the NHL level.
Fairly interesting stuff- Elliott and Trotman are likely to be the 8th and 9th defensemen in the organization (in whatever order, along with the recently re-signed Kevin Czuczman). This means one of the three would be the first call-up from the AHL in case of an injury to an NHL defenseman, given that Pittsburgh has basically no young prospect defensemen who are going to be ready for NHL action in 2018-19.
It’s safe to say at some point of the season one (or both) of these guys will play some games in the NHL. Trotman did play 3 games in 2017-18 for NHL Pittsburgh with 70 games in Wilkes-Barre.
Jimmy Hayes is perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser. The Pens already have enough NHL caliber forwards and contracts up front. Hayes, 28, isn’t too far removed from a 19-goal, 35-point season with the Florida Panthers in 2015-16 and a 13g+16a season in Boston the following year. His play has seemed to slump away these past two seasons, he did score 9 points (3g+6a) in 33 games with the New Jersey Devils, but he was also demoted to the AHL for three games - his first time back in the minors since 2013. Hayes is also a well-known guy since his younger brother Kevin is one of the better players for the New York Rangers.
Whether just as depth or if Hayes would have a real shot to make the NHL roster remains to be seen. It’s not totally inconceivable that Hayes could have the chance to outplay a guy like Zach Aston-Reese for a 4th line job to start the season. However, of course, it remains to be seen how much Hayes has left or if he still is an NHL caliber player for 2018-19. But for basically NHL minimum wage it’s a no-risk, low-reward type of signing by Pittsburgh. Hayes shouldn’t be on Evgeni Malkin’s line or anything but crazier things have happened, and cheap depth of experienced players is always a good thing for organizations.