The Pittsburgh Penguins have locked up Juuso Riikola to a one-year one-way contract worth $850K. The 25-year old defenseman was a restricted free agent this summer, but will now get another chance to prove he is worth a multi-year contract as a full-time piece of the Penguins’ blue line. Pittsburgh assistant GM Bill Guerin released a statement on the defenseman:
Juuso has adjusted to the North American style of hockey seamlessly. He’s a very confident guy, and he’s also a great skater that moves the puck really well. We expect him to make an even bigger impact this year.
Riikola was signed out of Finland last year as an undrafted free agent, and immediately made an impact on the Penguins. When Justin Schultz went down early in the season with a broken leg, Riikola was used heavily by the Penguins and ended up playing 37 games for them through the first half of the season. By March, the Penguins had acquired some additional depth on the blue line and the team ended up eventually sending him down to the minor leagues.
Depth seems to be the key word to describe this contract, given the number of defensemen the Penguins now have signed for next season. There are already six players earning at least $3.25MM on one-way deals, plus the recently extended Chad Ruhwedel and RFA Marcus Pettersson. Right now it doesn’t appear as though there will be much opportunity for the young Finn, however the Penguins have been clear about their desire to shake up the roster this summer.