At least one pending free agent for the Pittsburgh Penguins is off the table. Kasper Bjorkqvist, who is scheduled to become an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, has signed a new two-year contract with Karpat in Finland. The Penguins will be able to retain his exclusive NHL rights by issuing him a qualifying offer this summer.
Bjorkqvist, 24, was the 61st overall pick in 2016 and made his NHL debut this season, playing in six games. He scored his first NHL goal during that short stint but was otherwise rather ineffective, registering just 12 points in 54 games at the AHL level. A member of the incredible 2016 Finnish World Junior team that took home the gold medal, he never has quite grown into his game at the professional level, at least on the North American circuit.
There is certainly hope for him in Finland, as during the 2020-21 season when the AHL was dormant due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bjorkqvist played in Finland and was named the Liiga rookie of the year after posting 26 points in 44 games. He also had an outstanding career at Providence College, which included being named captain for his final season, an extremely rare honor for European players at the NCAA level.
The Penguins will still have his rights when the contract expires but not for long. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent when he turns 27, which will be just a few days after the market opens in 2024. His time in Pittsburgh could very well be over.