The Pittsburgh Penguins may have a logjam on the blue line as it is, but that won’t stop GM Jim Rutherford from keeping one of his favorite players around. The Penguins have announced a new two-year, one-way deal with defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. The contract carries a minimum $700K AAV.
Ruhwedel, 29, arrived in Pittsburgh in 2016 as a free agent and took on a surprisingly large role for the Penguins as a primary depth option in the regular season and postseason en route to a Stanley Cup title. He played even more last year, skating in a career-high 44 games and starting in the playoffs. However, his career trend went in the opposite direction this season, as Ruhwedel spent almost the whole season in the press box, playing in just 18 games with Pittsburgh and five with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Even in a reduced role, Rutherford and head coach Mike Sullivan were consistent in their praise for Ruhwedel as a reliable depth player and positive locker room influence. In the team’s release detailing the new contract, Rutherford said the following of his extended defender:
Chad has exemplified what it means to be a team player the past two years. His work ethic and conditioning have allowed him to jump into the lineup at a moment’s notice, which is vital to a team’s success.
Ruhwedel was unlikely to land anything other than a minimum contract on the free agent market, so it makes sense that he chooses to return to Pittsburgh where he is comfortable and where he has found success. More likely than not, Ruhwedel will have to clear waivers at some point this season, as the Penguins are well-stocked on the back end. Barring a trade, Ruhwedel joins Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Erik Gudbranson, and Jack Johnson on one-way contracts, with Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola in need of a new contracts as restricted free agents. The renewal of Ruhwedal does improve the odds that a defenseman is dealt out of Pittsburgh, though.