Dubas, Penguins make big splash on first day of free agency

Pittsburgh Penguins, Tristan Jarry #35. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Penguins, Tristan Jarry #35. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Saturday marked the beginning of free agency in the NHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins wasted little time making a splash.

Led by Kyle Dubas in his first summer with the organization, the Penguins addressed their bottom-six forwards, their top-four defensemen, and their goaltending.

Up front, Pittsburgh signed Noel Acciari, Lars Eller, and Matt Nieto. In that group are champions and great role players. All three can be solid secondary scoring options for the Pens, and they should be key contributors on the penalty kill as well.

The forwards in Pittsburgh were problematic after the top six for most of last season. Kyle Dubas did well to fix that by signing these three players to kick off the free agency season.

Keep in mind that these additions come on the heels of a trade to bring Reilly Smith in from the Vegas Golden Knights. It is also worth noting forward Jason Zucker did not re-sign with the Penguins.

The Penguins were busy on day one of NHL free agency.

Defensively, Pittsburgh added Ryan Graves on a six-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million per season. That deal makes him the third-highest-paid defenseman on the roster, and the highest on the left side.

Graves has been a productive player in his first five NHL seasons with the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils. He will replace Brian Dumoulin, who signed with the Seattle Kraken.

Goaltender was the position that most Penguins fans were watching, and it turns out Tristan Jarry will be back in the crease. He signed a five-year contract worth $5.375 million per year. The team also added Alex Nedeljkovic on a one-year contract.

The Nedeljkovic signing is low-risk, high-reward, but bringing Jarry back feels very high-risk. Availability has been his biggest weakness, and there is now a lot of money and years tied up in him as the team looks to keep its championship window open.

The flurry of moves on the opening day of free agency filled out the Penguins’ roster, but they also put them over the cap. It’s clear that Dubas’s work this summer is far from over.

Backup goalie Casey DeSmith could be on the move with Nedeljkovic’s signing. Forward Mikael Granlund, the team’s fifth-highest-paid forward, could also be on his way out after not playing well with the Pens last season.

There are also rumors that Pittsburgh has had trade discussions with the San Jose Sharks about acquiring defenseman Erik Karlsson. Pulling off that move would surely set off a string of related moves for the Penguins.

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Overall, Saturday was a good day for the Pens. In some form or fashion, they addressed all of their key areas of need. There is still work to be done, but this has been a great start to the offseason.