The Penguins took care of some business on Tuesday, announcing that forward Valtteri Puustinen was re-signed for next season.
The Penguins have re-signed forward Valtteri Puustinen to a one-year contract.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 20, 2023
The one-year, two-way deal will run through the 2023.24 campaign and carries an average annual value of $775,000 at the NHL level.
From the team:
The one-year, two-way deal will run through the 2023-24 campaign and carries an average annual value of $775,000 at the NHL level.
Puustinen, 24, spent the 2022-23 season with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League recording career highs across the board with 24 goals, 35 assists and 59 points in 72 games. His 35 assists and 59 points ranked first on WBS, while his 24 goals only trailed Alex Nylander.
The 5-foot-9, 183-pound forward has played two seasons with WBS, appearing in 145 career AHL games and accumulating 101 points (44G-57A). Since making his AHL debut at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, no player on WBS has more goals (44) or points (57) than Puustinen. He also appeared in one NHL game with the Penguins during the 2021-22 season, recording one assist and was a plus-2.
Prior to his professional debut, the Kuopio, Finland native spent three seasons with HPK of Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, registering 94 points (48G-46A) in 152 games. Puustinen helped HPK win the Liiga Championship in 2019, notching five points (2G-3A) in 16 playoff games.
Puustinen has been a point-producing player at every level he’s been at, including now the AHL Wilkes-Barre Penguins. Due to salary cap and health of the top right wingers on the ream, Puustinen did not have an opportunity to play any NHL games in 2022-23. He only has one career game — necessitated by injuries to other players in 2021-22. Puustinen showed well and recorded an assist against Vegas but was sent back to the AHL anyways upon the team’s return to health.
It remains to be seen if Puustinen will get a shot at a bigger role than that for 2023-24, but he’s a valuable player for the organization as one of the few players who can be relied on to generate offense at the AHL level. He’ll be worth it as organizational depth, if nothing else, but if/when the Pens start making trades and signing free agents it will likely be difficult to find a spot in the NHL roster for Puustinen. As a skilled (and smallish) winger, he likely only fits in a couple of spots in the lineup. And, unfortunately for him, with players like Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell ahead of him, that space runs out quickly.
But injuries do happen and is the point of having depth. If nothing else, Puustinen will offer the organization another year of his talents at some level. The Penguins still have nine more restricted free agents to make decisions on before the June 30th deadline to issue qualifying offers.