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Penguins sign Matt Nieto, reportedly attempting to acquire Erik Karlsson

Penguins add one forward, and might be trying to get a big fish on defense via trade as free agency begins

Pittsburgh Penguins v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Ashley Potts/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins made their first free agent signing, adding depth winger Matt Nieto, per Darren Dreger but not the team as of yet. Great mustache, as you can see in the picture above and also some great defensive impacts. Nieto, 30, scored 24 points combined between San Jose and Colorado last season.

But the much bigger fish the Penguins are after isn’t even a free agent, it’s reigning Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson. Per Pierre Lebrun, Josh Yohe, Elliotte Friedman and just about everyone else in the know, Pittsburgh is in the mix to acquire Karlsson.

The Pens aren’t alone in the pursuit of adding the talented defender, they’re mixing it up with Seattle and Carolina. Karlsson, 33, carries a massive $11.5 million cap hit for the next four seasons. It is believed San Jose will retain some of that, and Pittsburgh was reportedly also looking to move on from Jeff Petry ($6.5m and a right-handed shot) who would likely need to be dealt in order to fit Karlsson on the ice and under the cap.

In other news, some Penguin players have moved on today:

  • Ryan Poehling got scooped up by Philadelphia on a one-year $1.4 million deal
  • Jason Zucker, somewhat surprisingly, agreed to just a one-year deal and with Arizona of all places for a $5.3 million cap hit. (Here’s betting he rents and doesn’t buy).
  • Drake Caggiula is going back from whence he came (Edmonton).
  • Goalie Dustin Tokarski is also going back to his former organization, with the Buffalo Sabres in this case.

Not mentioned is Tristan Jarry, though Yohe pointed out that the Pens and Jarry are staying in touch. And as former goalie Mike McKenna pointed out, after Carolina brought back Frederik Andersen, Pittsburgh is one of the few teams looking for a starting goalie and Jarry is one of the few starting goalies out there. Could a reunion be in the works?

We shall see, but as Kyle Dubas promised, the Pens haven’t been seeking a lot of high-end free agents. They still have some work to do to round out the team, but at this point it looks like trying to move for a potential difference maker like Karlsson is at the top of the list at the moment.