Among the players who didn’t receive a qualifying offer this year, Danton Heinen raised a few eyebrows. Once an up-and-coming scoring threat with the Boston Bruins, his game has fallen off in recent years. The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to correct that path, signing Heinen to a one-year, $1.1MM contract today.
Now 26, this may be Heinen’s last chance to prove he can handle a scoring role in the NHL. The fourth-round pick scored 16 goals and 47 points as a rookie in Boston and looked like he was going to be the answer to the second-line scoring issues. He was even given a chance beside Patrice Bergeron for a time the next season, but failed to reach the same level of production.
Since then, it has been a steady downward slope in his career. At the trade deadline in 2019-20 he was flipped to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie (who also happened to go unqualified this summer) where he has struggled. In 43 games during the 2020-21 season, he recorded just seven goals and 14 points despite seeing the most time beside Jakob Silfverberg and Adam Henrique.
There’s talent there that’s easy to see, but Heinen has to find a way to become more consistent in the offensive zone. In Pittsburgh, there’s a real chance that at some point he’ll be given an opportunity beside either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. He can’t afford to waste it this time, or that explosive rookie season will be quickly forgotten.
For the Penguins, moves like this are nothing new. Crosby has been asked to boost inexpensive linemates for years, and reclamation projects have become regular occurrences. In this case it doesn’t pose much risk with a contract that could be almost entirely buried in the minor leagues if necessary, but Heinen doesn’t offer much in a bottom-six role except penalty-kill ability.