There’s a deadline tonight where the Penguins must sign two drafted players or will relinquish their rights. It’s a pair of former seventh round defensemen in the form of 2019 pick Santeri Airola and 2022 selection Ryan McCreary.
MUST SIGN BY - June 1, 2023 @ 5pm ET— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) June 1, 2023
Reminder that today at 5pm ET is the deadline for clubs to sign the following drafted players on their reserve lists to entry level contracts, otherwise they will lose their exclusive signing rights window.
Airola, this website will remain steadfast in saying, actually looked pretty decent as a very young player in the summer of 2019 when he participated in the Pens’ summer development camp. The Finnish defender also had his best season last year, recording seven assists in 10 games at the SM-Liiga top level of Finnish hockey, as well as putting up 22 points (8G+14A) at the lower Mestis division.
Being as CapFriendly already has Airola under contract in Finland, and the Penguins lack of a general manager right now, it would look like low odds that Pittsburgh retains his rights. So long, Santeri, we’ll always have those couple June days of practices and scrimmages.
Then again, the GM-less Pens did sign Alex Nylander to a contract, so perhaps they could make a signing. It remains to be seen if getting the other player in Ryan McCleary wrapped up is something they are interested in.
Fellow 2022 defensive draftee Isaac Belliveau was signed by Ron Hextall in the spring, prior to Hextall’s dismissal. Left unsigned was McCleary, whose career hasn’t exactly take off in recent years at the junior level. Is he worth one of the team’s 50 contracts for the next three seasons on an entry level deal? That answer may have already been given by Hextall, but the Pens have the rest of this business day to go a different direction if they wanted to do so.