The Penguins have plunged into the Kyle Dubas era with a busy first three days of free agency.
Let’s check in on what deals the outgoing 2022-23 Pens were able to snag in free agency.
Jason Zucker: Arizona Coyotes (one year, $5.3 million)
The Coyotes entered free agency with a comfortable $28 million in cap space, so Arizona was the place to go for a payday. With a one-year deal, Zucker looks like he’s betting himself to command an even higher salary as a free agent next summer, when the salary cap is expected to spike.
Arizona already has Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz flanking the top line, so Zucker could expect a similar second-line role in the desert as to what he played in Pittsburgh.
On the Penguins’ end, the team filled this cap space almost immediately with a $5 million deal for former Vegas Golden Knights right winger Reilly Smith.
Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Penguins hesitated to re-sign Zucker because of his injury history, but Smith has also missed significant time due to injury in the two seasons prior to his last campaign with the Golden Knights.
Brian Dumoulin: Seattle Kraken (two years, $3.15 million)
Dumoulin will say goodbye to Pittsburgh, where he has been one of the team’s leaders in ice time for the past seven seasons, to assume a new role in Seattle under general manager Ron Francis. (It’s a reunion for Francis and Dumoulin. The GM was with the Hurricanes back when Dumoulin was drafted by Carolina in 2009.)
On the same day the Kraken acquired Dumoulin, the team shipped out third-pairing defenseman Carson Soucy. It seems likely Dumoulin will slot in for Soucy on that bottom pairing. That role could flatter the veteran Pens blueliner, whose slower skating has left him exposed alongside Kris Letang in Pittsburgh but who could shine as a defensive stalwart in a more sheltered position.
It could also reunite him with an old friend. Former Penguin Justin Schultz was skating alongside Soucy on that third pairing last season.
Ryan Poehling: Philadelphia Flyers (one year, $1.4 million)
Poehling played a relatively small role with the Penguins last year, averaging under 12 minutes per game and missing weeks due to injury. Statistically, however, there were positive signs. EvolvingHockey ranked him well on defense, and he clocked in as one of the league’s fastest skaters.
The Flyers also signed former Washington Capitals/Boston Bruins winger Garnet Hathaway, who could be a candidate to be Poehling’s linemate next season. Hathaway, who racked up 268 hits and 69 penalty minutes across those two teams last season, was at times a brutally physical presence on the Bruins forecheck and could potentially combine well with Poehling’s speed.
Dmitry Kulikov: Florida Panthers (one year, $1 million)
Kulikov played just four games for the Penguins after his trade-deadline acquisition from the Anaheim Ducks before he was sidelined with injury. The Panthers could be betting on him returning to the 20-minute nights he was recording in Anaheim if they plan on slotting Kulikov into a second pairing alongside fellow free agency acquisition Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Josh Archibald: Tampa Bay Lightning (two years, $800,000)
Archibald played just eight games for the Edmonton Oilers in 2021-22 due to myocarditis stemming from COVID-19, so when the Penguins brought him back to Pittsburgh last season it was on a one-year, $900k deal.
Archibald’s six goals and six assists and an average ice time of under 10 minutes through 62 games were not enough to earn him a raise, but his 195 hits— good for second on the Penguins— helped earn him a multi-year term. In Tampa Bay, he’ll be rejoining fellow Wilkes-Barre/Scranton alum Conor Sheary.
Expect to see Archibald on the Lightning’s fourth line, potentially flanking center Luke Glendening. The Lightning acquired Glendening from the Dallas Stars this weekend, perhaps to replace UFA Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Nick Bonino: New York Rangers (one year, $800,000)
Another trade-deadline pickup sidelined by injury, Bonino’s return to Pittsburgh will end after three games. It’s a disappointing end to the Penguins career of a player whose role on the HBK line will go down in team history. Bonino will now head to the Rangers on a salary just above league minimum and could play as the team’s fourth-line center.
Dustin Tokarski: Buffalo Sabres (one year, $775,000)
Tokarski, who spent two seasons prior to his Penguins campaign with the Sabres, is heading back to Buffalo. The netminder spent most of last season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he recorded a .910 save percentage in 36 games. He will likely join the Rochester Americans, the Sabres’ minor-league affiliate, and could slot in as a third-stringer behind Devon Levi and Eric Comrie if both stick around.
Danton Heinen’s future is yet to be decided. As of Monday night, he remains on the board.