General Manager Jim Rutherford took care of his last bit of off season business yesterday by signing his last remaining RFA Brandon Sutter to a two year, $6.6 million dollar deal.
Sutter’s contract came just days after the Pens avoided arbitration and signed forward Nick Spaling to a two-year, $4.4 million dollar deal.
The Penguins now have a full roster signed with just under $900,000 in cap space remaining, so short of maybe one more training camp invite, they’re done for the summer.
Maybe it’s a sign of the calendar and they’re being no other real hockey to talk, but both deals have had Penguins fans jammed up the past week, with many crying that GMJR has overpaid for below-average depth guys.
Let’s start with Nick Spaling. Coming off a career year that saw him pot 13 goals and 19 assists playing largely on Nashville’s third line, Spaling was asking a kings ransom in arbitration, somewhere to the toon of $2.85 million a year. Eventually both sides split the difference and landed on a cap hit of $2.2 million.
Spaling’s detractors sight his high shooting percentage and bad possession numbers as a reason for his over payment, but keep in mind that Spaling played in Nashville, one of the worst possession teams in the NHL.
Pretty much everyone who played for the Preds last year finished with middling to bad numbers possession wise. You really can’t make a judgment on this dal until you see how he performs on a better team with a more offense-heavy game like Pittsburgh.
Sutter on the other hand is someone that Penguins fans have watched very closely the past two seasons.
Is he an elite-level third line center? Maybe. Sutter’s CF% rel of -8.4% was one of the worst on the team last season, however seeing as his most common line mates were Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale and Brian Gibbons, it’s be pretty hard for any one to possess the puck well with those guys dragging you down.
The fact that he managed 11 goals playing with stiffs like that is somewhat remarkable.
He saw huge jumps in production when paired with Beau Bennett and Jussi Jokinen last year, so while he’s no Jordan Staal, Sutter can be effective given decent line mates.
And the Penguins did just that. They gave Sutter two years and up-graded line mates to prove that he’s worth a long-term deal. How he handles that will be very telling of his true talent as a hockey player.
Is $5.5 million a year a lot to have committed to two bottom-six forwards? Yeah, but that’s just the nature of the NHL these days. Star players get locked up long-term while the depth guys make out like bandits signing two or three or four year deals to crazy high cap hits.
The Penguins simply paid market value for what they needed, and considering both are just two year deals, the risk is pretty low.