The NHL’s annual free agency period began at noon on Friday, July 1st. As expected for the Pens, who are tightly up against the salary cap, it was a quiet day.
In fact, the biggest news of the day was the team’s announced three-year contract extension for general manager Jim Rutherford, which will keep him at the reins through the 2018-19 season.
The Pens were still busy during the day, adding organizational depth. Here’s a look at how the day shook out for the Pens:
WHO STAYED: *D Tim Erixon D Steve Oleksy *F Kevin Porter F Tom Sestito
WHOLEFT: D Ben Lovejoy (New Jersey) G Jeff Zatkoff (Los Angeles)
WHO WAS ADDED: D Cameron Gaunce D Stuart Percy D Chad Ruhwedel D David Warsofsky
STILL UNDECIDED: F Matt Cullen D Justin Schultz
TAKEAWAY The Pens knew they weren’t going to making a big splash on free agency with their limited cap space. Most of the team’s additions today were done to solidify their depth throughout the organization, especially on the blue line.
Some familiar names remained (Oleksy, Sestito) while another returned (Warsofsky, who was claimed off waivers by New Jersey around the trade deadline). And the team hasn’t closed the door on the hopes of re-signing center Matt Cullen and defenseman Justin Schultz.
“No, it’s not closed,” Rutherford said when asked about Cullen and Schultz. “But they’re obviously getting some attention and they’re going to have to make a decision soon.”
As for the other defensive additions on the day, here is what associate general manager Jason Botterill had to say about each:
On Ruhwedel: “A guy who came in right away to Buffalo after being a sought-after college free agent. He played games right away. He’s a guy that skates extremely well, has a very good shot from the point on the power play. He’s undersized a bit, but we like his compete down low. The biggest attribute for him is his speed and skating ability.”
On Stuart Percy: “A former first-round pick. Our amateur reports were very high on him in that regard. The biggest thing we like about him is his transition game, this first pass. At 23 we feel there is still room for him to develop. We look at players like Brian Dumoulin that played three years in the minors before moving up. It takes some defensemen more time to develop. Hopefully we can continue to work with (Percey).”
On Gaunce: “He took a real step forward this year. He’s a little thicker, a little stronger down low, heavier down low. But also a player that can move the puck very well and create that transition game.”