On Monday it was announced that forwards Bryan Rust, Scott WIlson and Tom Kuhnhackl have signed two-year one-way contract extensions. Rust has played in 33 games for the Pens this season, Kuhnhackl 28, and Wilson 24, and all three of them have earned playing time by consistently contributing to the team.
“It’s great. I’m happy for them,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think it’s good for our organization. They’re good people, first and foremost. They’re the types of guys we want on our team. And they’re good players. I think they’re only going to get better. They’re very good players. They’re hungry and I think they have an insatiable appetite to be out on the ice. Those are the types of guys we want in our dressing room. I think their play has spoken for itself and they’re very deserving.”
Being in the bottom six forwards, each of them has learned the amount of hard-work and dedication it takes to earn a spot on an NHL team, and although they are excited, they know that they can still do more.
“It’s obviously nice for me. It’s something that I’ve been working towards, and it’s something that I’ve been trying really hard to get,” Rust explained. “I’m very pleased with it, but I’m not going to be satisfied. It’s kind of something that I’ve learned over the years. There’s always something better, and there’s always something to work for. I’m happy where I’m at now, but there’s always room to build.”
Rust participated in 14 games with the Penguins in the 2014-15 season, but he spent most of last year playing in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Clearly he has been doing the right things since then because beginning next season he is on a contract with an annual value of $640,000.
“It means that the organization has confidence in me, and that’s something that I see as really important,” Rust said. “And it’s kind of a stepping stone for me. It’s one step forward to where I want to be. It shows that I’ve been working hard and it’s been paying off, but there’s more to do. Obviously I’m happy to be here, and I’m going to try to help this team win.”
After spending the past few years playing in the AHL and ECHL, Kuhnhackl made his NHL debut this season, and he has earned six points (2G-4A) so far.
“If you look at my career the last couple of years, I started down in the East Coast and played there for a year and a half,” Kuhnhackl said. “Then, I worked my way into the AHL into a regular player there, power play and penalty kill and all that stuff. Obviously it feels great to be up in Pittsburgh right now, and I’m really happy I got the extension.”
Both Kuhnhackl and Wilson have signed contracts with an annual vale of $625,000. The players are happy to be taking such an important step forward in their careers, but again, they know that there are more important things at hand.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve been dreaming of that for a long time, and I’m glad it came true,” Kuhnhackl explained. “I’m really excited, but our focus should be on winning the game tonight and trying to get into the playoffs. So the contract extension is not that important.”