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NHL Free Agency: Another year, another blunder by the Penguins with an unnecessary signing

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It’s getting hard to understand just how this is going to all work out in a positive way

NHL: OCT 29 Penguins at Jets Photo by Terrence Lee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“It’s the way things work on July 1st,” Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford said yesterday. “You either give the player close to what he wants or you don’t get the player. And we felt so strong about Tanev that we were willing to go as far as we had to go to make sure we got him.”

The way things work on July 1st haven’t really worked out for Pittsburgh at all lately. For the second year in a row Rutherford has felt the need to “go as far as we had to go” to secure the services of a depth player at a premium price for a significant term of years.

Last July 1 saw the Pens land defenseman Jack Johnson, a move that was regrettable before it was made official and only proved disastrous during the season. Johnson was the Pens’ worst defender in terms of suppressing shots, chances and goals (pretty important for a defenseman!) and was even a healthy scratch by the first game of the playoffs. He now heads into his age 32-33 season still signed for four more years, enough term that the team seemingly tried to move him earlier this summer but were unable to.

Johnson’s failings this year didn’t dissuade Rutherford from a similar move again this year. Just as it didn’t stop him from taking any lessons from signing veteran Matt Hunwick to a three-year deal on July 1st, 2017. Hunwick was poor enough the Pens had to use a useful player in Conor Sheary to pair with and trade out less than a year later.

Rutherford’s next swing at the plate on July 1? Forward Brandon Tanev.

“I think I’m a very physical and fast and tenacious player,” Tanev said. “I look forward to bringing that style of play to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That being said, I look at the lineup and the great group of core players they have here and I’m very excited to be working with them and being a part of this organization. It’s an extremely exciting time.”

He’s excited, and with that paycheck why not?

Penguins’ fans probably shouldn’t be though. Signing Tanev for a premium means there’s going to be yet another shoe still to drop. Pittsburgh only has about $2.2 million left on the salary cap and still have to re-sign three restricted free agents.

“There’s a good chance we will have to make another move, yes,” Rutherford admitted today.

Patric Hornqvist makes $5.3 million but has a full no trade clause, is he safe? Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust, salary-wise about make sense to ship out. But for what?

And both of those players have demonstrated significantly more production than Tanev — a 27-year old with only 24 career NHL goals. Is the team any better off with still having to make another move?

As usual, Pittsburgh looks like they’ve made an unforced error on July 1st, for the third straight year. By shuffling out Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta and who knows who else to come, Jim Rutherford will have achieved his goal to change his team. At this point it looks very doubtful those changes will be positive.