The Pittsburgh Penguins waited patiently and have found a bargain on the free agent market, agreeing to terms with Derek Grant on a one-year $650K contract. Grant was arguably the top forward left in free agency other than Rick Nash, who hasn’t made a decision on whether or not he’ll play next season.
The 28-year old center was given his first real opportunity to play substantial NHL minutes last season when the Anaheim Ducks were dealing with injuries to both Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, and impressed with a stretch of 11 points in 15 games early in the season. Though his total would only reach 24 on the season in 66 games, he obviously did enough to earn himself another NHL deal. That will come in Pittsburgh where the Penguins have continued to collect center depth for the better part of a year, and who will now likely have to play several pivots on the wing.
Riley Sheahan re-signed with the team, Derick Brassard is expected to be healthy and Matt Cullen returned from his one-year stint with the Minnesota Wild, leaving the Penguins with more center options than they need going into the year. While Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will obviously remain in their positions as one of the league’s top 1-2 punches, GM Jim Rutherford is obviously not willing to be left scrambling for backup options this time around. It’s also not clear where Grant will fit in exactly, given that the team was expected to provide Daniel Sprong, Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon with full-time roles this season. That’s obviously not a given anymore, as the Penguins have as many as 16 forwards competing for 13 or 14 NHL jobs.