With expansion looming, the Penguins have made their first move of the off-season. And it’s to re-sign center Teddy Blueger for the next two years.
From the team press release:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Teddy Blueger to a two-year contract, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.
The one-way deal will run through the 2022-23 campaign and carries an average annual value of $2.2 million.
“Teddy has proven to be a versatile, two-way center, as well as a fixture on the penalty kill,” said Ron Hextall. “He is a valuable player for our team.”
Blueger, 26, is coming off of a solid 2020-21 campaign where he recorded seven goals, 15 assists, 22 points and was plus-10 in 43 games. His 22 points tied his career high set in 2019-20, while his 15 assists, plus-10, and .51 points-per-game average were all career bests.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Blueger was a staple on Pittsburgh’s penalty kill, scoring a team-best and career-high three shorthanded goals in 2020-21. Only three NHL players had more shorthanded tallies last year than Blueger, and his 2:09 of shorthanded time-on-ice per game was first among all Penguins forwards.
A veteran of 140 NHL games, all with Pittsburgh, Blueger has registered 22 goals, 32 assists, 54 points, four shorthanded goals, four game-winning goals, and is plus-19. Since making his NHL debut, no Penguin has more regular-season shorthanded goals than his four. He also has 11 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience, where he’s scored one goal.
This is a good deal for the team, and a reasonable one too. The Evolving Hockey contract model had a prediction of a two-year, $2.3 million annual salary for Blueger, so the Pens were able to get him right in that range and avoid arbitration.
All NHL teams must have their protection lists in on Sunday, and Pittsburgh can keep seven forwards away from the Seattle Kraken. Blueger might be a prime candidate for them, and this contract shouldn’t really scare them away if they have their sights on him and he is available. It’s a fair deal for a useful player, now the question just remains will he play on it in Pittsburgh?
Given the center situation for the Pens with Evgeni Malkin expected to miss the start of the season, a strategy could be in place to protect Blueger in order to ensure depth is retained for the start of next season. Right now so much is up in the air and can be interpreted in many ways!
The Penguins now have one key restricted free agent (Zach Aston-Reese), and two key unrestricted free agents from their playoff roster (Cody Ceci and Frederick Gaudreau). The signing of Blueger takes up most the salary cap space that exists, but the team will gain some measure of cap space depending on Seattle’s selection in next week’s expansion draft.