Here’s a list of the Penguins’ free agents to be and where we stand right now still on the eve of the offseason roster moves.
Unrestricted Free Agents
As of July 27th, these players will be free agents unless they sign a deal for next season prior to that point.
Full Time NHLers
Yannick Weber - signed with ZSC Lions (Switzerland) for 2021-22
Josh Currie - signed with Magnitogorsk for 2021-22
Weber, 32, was an emergency in-season signing when the Penguins were decimated with injury. He was then quickly relegated to the fringes of the roster/taxi squad when the team got healthy and has already decided to jump back to play in his native Switzerland.
Sceviour probably figures to be turned loose by Pittsburgh after an OK but replaceable role this season. Rodrigues and especially Gaudreau flashed at times and may have interest from the organization to return, but it remains to be seen if either or both will sign with the Pens or move onto a different opportunity.
Ceci will be the most notable UFA, the Pens don’t have a ton of cap space but Ceci had a very solid season for them and impressed with his level of play. There was a definite fit on the ice, but it’s now up to agents and the team’s management to determine if there’s a fit and willingness to bring Ceci back on a new contract.
The Pens also have several veteran minor league performers that could be retained or cycled through to a new batch for next season for organizational depth. A lot of times players like this tend to come and go regularly, though Czuczman and Trotman have become Wilkes-Barre mainstays with the organization since the start of the 2017-18 season. Now that the Pens are under new management, they may be looking to cycle through some organizational depth moving forward, but is worth watching if you’re interested in the AHL team or the extended possible NHL injury call-ups.
One such player who won’t be returning to the Pens’ organization next season is Josh Currie. Currie has signed with Magnitogorsk of the KHL. If that name sounds familiar, it should — it’s the home club of one Evgeni Malkin.
Restricted Free Agents
We will break out the RFAs into three different categories. There are full time NHLers, young prospects coming off their entry level contracts, and players at age 24 to 26 who could be on the bubble in terms of team interest. Qualifying offers are due to players by July 26th, any player not qualified will jump into the unrestricted free agent pool on July 27th.
Full Time NHLers
Emil Larmi — signed with Pelicans (Finland) for 2021-22
On the Bubble
The most important players on this list for the immediate future are Aston-Reese and Blueger, and the Pens can let the dust settle on expansion to see if they will still be with the organization after the July 21st expansion draft and determine next steps. Both have arbitration rights if they are qualified, which has become not as automatic a step in the past as teams fret over lower-line players potentially getting a heftier salary judgement than they may want to pay. Given that both have been useful, it probably figures that they could be retained for next year if the team wants.
After a tough season that ended as a healthy scratch, it seems likely that Jankowski will be released back into the UFA pool for the next chapter of his career.
Bjorkqvist and Zohorna are intriguing young players, especially Zohorna after a successful NHL cameo towards the end of the season. Do the Pens see him as an NHL caliber player for next season? If so, he will be easy to retain and it would make sense to see him in a more full and normal season. Bjorkqvist returned to Wilkes after playing out the season in Finland on loan and is still looking to get his career off the ground. The former second round pick turns 24 this summer and only has 11 career AHL games under his belt, due mainly to injury from last year.
Miletic and Lindgren (who was involved in the 2020 Kasperi Kapanen trade but played in Europe in 2020-21) are now on the fringes for the level of player the organization could choose to shed, or brought back as the team sees fit.
Players who have been drafted but not yet signed are on what is called the NHL’s reserve list.
Recently the Penguins signed 2019 draft pick Valtteri Puustinen before his rights were set to expire. Pittsburgh allowed the rights to 2017 sixth round pick Antti Palojarvi expire without signing him, Palojarvi is no longer tied to the Pens and that wraps up this year’s list of drafted players.
By next summer, the Pens must sign three former draft picks in forwards Lukas Svejkovsky and Raivis Ansons plus defender Clayton Phillips, or lose their rights. All can remain and are expected to remain with their respective junior/college teams for 2021-22.
Back to current housekeeping matters and in mostly a ceremonial and book-keeping record, the following players see their ties to the Pens end this off-season as they are now 27 years old and the team loses their affiliation: forward Pontus Aberg and defensemen Lukas Bengtsson and Andrey Pedan.
All three of those players were in the KHL in 2020-21. Aberg entered the Pens’ organization in the 2020 Kapanen trade. Pedan has technically been Pens’ property all the way back since the October 2017 trade that sent Derrick Pouliot to Vancouver. Pedan spent 2017-18 with AHL Wilkes-Barre but elected to go to the KHL and has been there the last three years. Bengtsson is a blast from the past, he signed with some fanfare and played two injury-filled seasons in Wilkes from 2016-18 before returning to Europe for the last three seasons as well.
It would seem very unlikely any of these players have interest in playing in North America, which probably matches Pittsburgh’s interest in bringing any back.