5:24 PM: The Penguins have indeed finalized a deal with Sheahan, announcing that he has signed a one-year, $2.1MM contract. It checks in at a slightly higher amount than his $2.075MM qualifying offer but had he been qualified and gone to an arbitration hearing, it likely would have cost more for Pittsburgh to keep him around.
2:04 PM: Though he wasn’t qualified earlier this week, Riley Sheahan is likely headed back to the Pittsburgh Penguins anyway. GM Jim Rutherford took questions after his trade of Conor Sheary earlier today, and indicated that the team was getting closer to a deal with Sheahan and would have re-signed the 26-year old center even without the added cap space. The team also admitted that their focus is on adding another defenseman before the season begins—something they have apparently done already with Jack Johnson.
The Penguins didn’t give Sheahan a qualifying offer because it would have cost them more than $2MM, and he would have gained arbitration rights. Now, though Sheahan could technically become an unrestricted free agent and sign with whoever he wants on July 1st, the team seems confident they can get a deal done at a lower cap hit. That’s important to Pittsburgh, who are pinching pennies to get everyone in under the $79.5MM ceiling.
Sheahan can be a useful player for the team, able to line up at center or wing and contribute offensively in a secondary role. Coming off his incredibly unlucky 2016-17 campaign—Sheahan took 106 shots before getting his first goal of the season in the final game, ending with just two—he bounced back to register 32 points despite being used almost exclusively in a defensive role. Sheahan received the fewest offensive zone starts of any center on the team, and was asked to kill more time shorthanded than anyone other player on a per-game basis.
Even with increased roles coming for players like Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon, Sheahan has clear value to the Penguins. He’ll be back in the fold in some capacity, though it’s not clear where a contract would land with the former Red Wing. With the relatively thin center market you’d think that he could draw some interest from around the league, but perhaps the stability that a Cup contender like Pittsburgh brings is enough to convince him to not even test the open waters.