Penguins now have six centers on 1-way contracts

The summer has hit the ‘league minimum’ period for free agents and the Penguins have joined the fray in signing center Derek Grant to a one year, $650,000 contract.

A left shot, the 6-foot-3, 215 lbs forward had a career season for the Ducks in 2017-2018 with 12 goals and 24 points in 66 games.

Penguin coaches havd recommended in scouting meetings this summer the team add a forward or two with size/physicality.

As mentioned before, Pa[hide]t Maroon was a favorite this summer of the [coaching] staff sources say, and if Mil[hide]an Lucic had been bought out it’s certain Mike Sullivan would have pushed for the Penguins to pursue Lucic, multiple sources say.

Grant is nowhere close to having the top-6 ability of those two but with the loss of Tom Kuhnhackl and Cater Rowney, two players the coaching staff had a lot of trust in, Grant is a player that drew the attention of the organization and checks some boxes of adding a player with size that the coaches can trust in key situations, such as winning key draws and being a factor on the penalty kill. [/hide]

What the signing means for the Penguins

One NHL source alluded to the signing of Grant to this:

‘The signing is not a precursor of another center getting shipped out of town (no trade is cooking right now) and this is just a player the Penguins like and feel the center/winger versatility of Grant gives the staff more flexibility.’

[Cliff notes — Don’t read into it that Derick Brassard’s [hide] on his way out tomorrow or next week, at least that’s the messaging from the Penguins end and also being confirmed from league sources for now (messaging has been consistent all summer)—] [/hide]

Bad News for likes of Aston-Reese, Blueger

— The signing is initially bad news for Zach Aston-Reese who doesn’t need waivers to be sent down and is heading towards a numbers game in the wrong direction.

The signing is also bad news for Jimmy Hayes on a 2-way contract trying to earn a spot in camp and sorry Teddy Blueger……

Since Jim Rutherford publicly touted Blueger was ready for an NHL role in late June (he is) and deserved a look as a 4th line center, Pittsburgh has gone out and added three more centers in signing Riley Sheahan, Matt Cullen and now Grant in less than a month since Rutherford’s praise of Blueger.

Compared to last season with the bottom-6 center position, what Rutherford has done this summer is pretty much eliminate any roster battles in training camp for guys like Blueger trying to sneak on the roster.

That’s potential troublesome as youth is never a bad thing for Cup Contenders.

What the Grant signing further ensures is a desire for the coaching staff to play Matt Cullen on the wing, something Cullen is preparing to do.

Grant’s fit in moving to a fast paced system

— On paper this is zero risk signing with potential upside (if the 12 goal season wasn’t a fluke) but there’s obvious concerns with the fit.

Grant, 28, has been an offensively challenged player his whole pro (AHL/NHL) career. He’s never produced in the AHL that projected more than a bottom-ceiling NHL player and prior to last season Grant had 0 goals, 7 assists in 86 NHL games.

Grant’s breakthrough season came in a slow, grind it out system in Anaheim. In Pittsburgh it’s a push the pace system in an Eastern Conference that has multiple teams getting quicker over the last season.

“He’s Tommy Kuhnhackl, albeit a bit slower but Derek gives Pittsburgh a center-wing combo that Tommy couldn’t. They do similar things,” an NHL scout [hide] said of Grant’s fit with the Penguins.

Another way the Penguins I believe are looking at the signing — more insurance down the middle and in the bottom-6. –[/hide]

Jim Rutherford surely doesn’t think this but there’s scouts, coaches from the Western Conference who strongly feel Matt Cullen is To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

Final Thoughts

Look at the Penguins moves from management this summer and it’s basically — ‘make it work Mike Sullivan’ –.

Pittsburgh signed Jack Johnson with a mentality he can be a top-2 pairing defenseman, something he hasn’t been, and even a thought by a small minority in the organization that he can play the right side with Brian Dumoulin to free up Kris Letang into a second-pairing role.

Then there’s the fact Pittsburgh has six centers and at least two of the four (Derick Brassard/Riley Sheahan/Matt Cullen/Derek Grant) will be forced to play the wing, were all six be in the lineup at the same time.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh continues to eat up any little cap space they had with the Conor Sheary/Matt Hunwick trade prior to July 1 as the team is now maxed out at 23 players.

The Penguins for now are projected to open the season with around $650,000-$700,000 in cap space.

One thing the Penguins haven’t done this summer is maximize their cap space.

It even goes back to resigning Riley Sheahan at $2.1 million. You can always find guys with his type of production for $1-$1.25 million cheaper as the Grant signing is another example of that. To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!