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Penguins sign Vinnie Hinostroza and Andreas Johnsson to bolster depth

Busy day for the Pens to add two more forwards to one-year contracts

NHL: OCT 07 Sabres at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins agreed to terms on Friday with two more free agents with NHL experience to help bolster the depth of their team. Up first was Vinnie Hinostroza.

Hinostroza played 26 games in Buffalo last year, recording 11 points (2G+9A) and also played in the AHL for the first time since the 2017-18 season. The 29-year old forward is starting to make the rounds as a marauding journeyman seeking a place in the NHL lineup; the 2023-24 season with Pittsburgh will be his fifth team as many seasons, having also had recent stops in Arizona, Florida, Chicago and Buffalo.

Hinostroza has been a PensBurgh favorite in recent years for his style of play - he can be pretty good playmaker in the offensive zone as well as being very valuable in play towards the middle of the ice. Not sure if I’d be so bold to say “high reward” below, but it’s a decent-enough upside to justify bringing in on a league minimum amount.

If that wasn’t enough fun and excitement on a summer afternoon, the Penguins went one step further and brought in forward Andreas Johnsson as well. Interestingly enough (or maybe not), Johnsson got an extra $25k above the league minimum in his contract.

Anyone off the scrap heap and bargain bin comes with some question marks and potential red flags, and the 28-year old Johnsson is no different at this point of his career. His best season-to-date was his rookie year in Toronto in 2018-19, scoring 43 points (20G+23A).

Toronto, you say, huh? That’s right, Johnsson was in the organization of Kyle Dubas from 2015-20 and doubtlessly a player that Pens’ new President is very well acquainted with. Dubas had to serve Johnsson up as a salary cap casualty to New Jersey in 2020, and it hasn’t quite been the same for his career since. The Devils eventually tired of Johnsson and waived him at the start of last season. He went unclaimed, got a few games as a call-up, was waived and unclaimed once more and then played in the AHL until being dealt to San Jose as a part of the Timo Meier deal to help even up salaries.

Given the trajectory of his past few years, this training camp could be Johnsson’s last crack at an NHL roster - if he’s even in the mix at all.

But if Johnsson is nothing else, he is a quality AHL player (peep those 30 points in 36 games with NJD’s affiliate) and that speaks to the badly needed influx of talent for Wilkes-Barre that Mike Sullivan talked about early in the off-season.

Pittsburgh has definitely done that, with the following names likely to begin the year in the AHL: perhaps one or both of Hinostroza/Johnsson, Radim Zohorna, Joona Koppanen, Marc Johnstone, Will Butcher, Ryan Shea, Magnus Hellberg. Add in potentially Mark Friedman, who knows where Alex Nylander will be and suddenly, Wilkes is flush with talent and established quality AHL players who can support what few talented younger players are in the organization (Sam Poulin, Valtteri Puustinen, Jonathan Gruden, Joel Blomqvist, uhh Nathan Legare count?). And we still haven’t gotten to veteran holdovers like Taylor Fedun and Xavier Ouellet who will be back next season, let alone the possibility that one of Casey DeSmith or Alex Nedeljkovic could be pushed off the NHL roster.

After these moves, the Pens are up to 46 NHL contracts for next season. 50 is the limit, and teams usually like to leave themselves a little bit of breathing room for space to make moves in the future, so the spending-spree is likely coming to an end soon.

But after adding two more players who could at least compete for NHL jobs and not look out of place — or go down to the AHL and stand-out as quality players at that level — the Pens have furthered their efforts to build more depth in the organization than it has seen in recent years.