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Penguins sign Zach Aston-Reese to one-year contract for 2021-22

Short term gain for the team for a long term exit for the player?

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Frank Seravalli, one of the hottest newsmakers around hockey recently, kept at it this afternoon with a report that the Penguins and Zach Aston-Reese are closing in on a one year deal.

All of Seravalli’s recent reports have been aces and he’s got a precise number here, so we’ll see if there comes team confirmation of this getting finalized soon.

This could be looked at several ways. Contract projection models, like Evolving Hockey, had Aston-Reese’s most likely contract as being a two-year deal worth an annual $2.12 million. The Pens would get a break on that if the $1.725 million amount comes to pass.

But the key is that second year. If Aston-Reese signs a one-year deal, he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, and could be signed by the highest bidder.

For the Pens, it would be a short-term gain on the salary cap now to only give Aston-Reese one year, and one more season to “prove it” — Aston-Reese has become an NHL regular but his season-high point total remains 17. If Aston-Reese has a classic contract year boost, he might price himself out of town.

Yet, the short-term gain is also meaningful. The Pens, if they go with 13 forwards + 7 defensemen would only be about $870,000 under the limit if Aston-Reese is signed to the deal as reported above. They have precious little space and pretty much need to get ZAR under contract for as little as they possibly can.

Thus, a one year deal works pretty well for the team now, for the player to get to UFA next year, but maybe not for Aston-Reese’s long-term future in Pittsburgh. Time will tell on that, but a one year deal keeps everyone’s options open and surely will make for a hungry performance for a player looking to add more to his world-class defensive metrics.