The Pittsburgh Penguins have come to terms on a new contract with one of their pending restricted free agents. The team has announced that forward Jared McCann has signed a two-year extension with a $2.94MM AAV. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman adds that the contract carries a $2.5MM salary in year one and a $3.38MM salary in year two. McCann will be a restricted free agent again when the deal expires after the 2021-22 season.
McCann, 24, is coming off of a career year and appears to have finally found a long-term NHL home. A 2014 first-round pick, McCann was traded first by the Vancouver Canucks after his first pro season and then again by the Florida Panthers midway through his fourth pro season. While those teams felt McCann was falling short of high expectations, the Penguins have gotten the most out of him. Since arriving in Pittsburgh in February 2019, McCann has recorded 52 points in 98 games, including 35 points this season, a career-high in points per game. McCann also ranks sixth among Penguins skaters in points during that span. If he continues to improve offensively and scores at a top-six level for the club, McCann’s extension will prove to be a major bargain for the Penguins.
The challenge though is where to place McCann in the lineup. While he has the versatility to play both wing and center, the Penguins have been unhappy with his performance when slotted down the middle. McCann’s record at the face-off dot leaves much to be desired, as does his ability to drive offense down the middle of the ice. If McCann is not a fit as the Penguins’ third line center, that position remains a major hole in their lineup while McCann becomes yet another of the team’s numerous wingers. Pittsburgh is unlikely to have re-signed McCann if they also planned to move him, but this deal makes it even more likely that the team could look to move another winger in order to improve elsewhere.
With McCann signed, the Penguins have just over $6MM in cap space with their situation in net still to resolve – Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both unsigned RFA’s – and two other RFA forwards in Dominik Simon and Sam Lafferty in need of new deals. This doesn’t leave GM Jim Rutherford much room to explore the free agent market unless another trade is still on the way.