The Pittsburgh Penguins have completed some contract work that has nothing to do with the impending trade deadline, signing Mark Friedman to a two-year extension. The deal, which keeps him in Pittsburgh through the 2023-24 season, is a one-way contract that carries an average annual value of $775K. Penguins’ general manager Ron Hextall released the following statement:
Friedman is an impactful defenseman who has strong offensive instincts and plays with an edge. He’s added depth to our defense corps and we are excited to see his continued development over the next two years.
Claimed off waivers last season Friedman has been a nice find for the Penguins, playing regular–if limited–minutes down the lineup. In 20 games this season the 26-year-old defenseman has one goal and five points while racking up 17 penalty minutes. Though he certainly isn’t an imposing figure, standing just 5’11”, Friedman is actually quite physical and willing to drop his gloves on occasion. While that doesn’t make him an incredibly important piece, he does seem to fall into the category of player that Penguins’ executive Brian Burke has always coveted.
For such a small cap hit, Friedman can continue in his role as a sixth or seventh defenseman for the Penguins but his time in the minor leagues is likely over for the next while. He would have to clear waivers in order to be assigned there, and Pittsburgh isn’t generally one of the teams that like to pay one-way contracts to players in the AHL (though, they have done so recently).
There’s no comparison between a player like Friedman and Kris Letang, though the latter’s situation will always be discussed when the Penguins are completing something with a defenseman. Letang is a pending unrestricted free agent and could, if he chooses to go elsewhere, leave a giant hole on the right side. While Friedman won’t be logging 25 minutes a night and leading a powerplay, getting him locked up now at least secures some depth at the position.