The Pittsburgh Penguins received outstanding seasons from defenseman Matt Niskanen and forward Jussi Jokinen that carried into the postseason: Niskanen had nine points in 13 games, while Jokinen led the Penguins with seven goals.
That was great for the Penguins, in the moment; not so much in the offseason, where both players are unrestricted free agents and where GM Jim Rutherford expects they’ll become ex-Penguins, according to the Tribune-Review.
“I've talked with them,” Rutherford told the Tribune-Review. “I think both players would like to return. But they're also coming off good years. It's time for them to hit free agency and get their big contracts. With that being said, we'll see what happens leading up to free agency.”
Niskanen was acquired by the Penguins along with James Neal from the Dallas Stars in Feb. 2011 for Alex Goligoski. He made $2.3 million against the cap on his last 2-year deal with Pittsburgh, but posted a monster 46-point season in 81 games for the Penguins, who were without leading offensive D-man Kris Letang for most of the season.
Jokinen is coming off a 3-year, $9-million deal he signed while with the Carolina Hurricanes. Rutherford not only traded him to Pittsburgh while GM of the Canes, but retained some of his salary as well to make the deal happen.
The Penguins have $15.98 million under the cap, but just 14 players signed.
Oh, and they need a coach, too.