CapFriendly has announced that the Pittsburgh Penguins have signed a pair of defensemen to PTOs for their upcoming training camp in September. Mark Pysyk and Libor Hajek have both inked tryout agreements with the Penguins that will give both defenders an opportunity to earn a contract with the team.
Pysyk last played in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres in 2021-22 in a season that saw the Sherwood Park, Alberta native put up three goals and nine assists in 68 games. That season earned him a contract with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2022-23 season, however, the 31-year-old tore his Achilles tendon and missed the entire season.
The 25-year-old Hajek has spent the past five seasons shuttling back and forth between the New York Rangers and their AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolfpack. In 118 AHL games Hajek has three goals and 13 assists, while he has posted four goals and eight assists in 110 NHL games. The former second-round pick has good size at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds but hasn’t found a way to utilize it at the NHL level. He has really struggled with the puck on his stick and is frequently guilty of turning the puck over.
Given where the Penguins are at with the bottom pairing in their defence core, it seems very likely that Hajek will struggle to gain an NHL contract with the team. Pittsburgh already has Ty Smith and Pierre-Olivier Joseph competing for the left-side spot on the third defensive pairing and both men can offer more offensively than Hajek. However, Hajek does have more sandpaper and size, which is something the Penguins are lacking in their lineup. It could make for an interesting battle right up until the season starts.
Pysyk on the other hand offers a lot of intrigue to the team’s training camp. Pittsburgh currently has Chad Ruhwedel pencilled in on the third pairing with Mark Friedman as another player looking to compete for a spot. Should Pysyk be able to regain his form from previous seasons it is very possible that he could bump both of those men down the depth chart and capture that final spot on the Penguins third defensive pairing.