Penguins sign Jamie Oleksiak to 3-year deal |

Penguins sign Jamie Oleksiak to 3-year deal


The final piece of the Penguins’ offseason puzzle on defense was snapped into place Thursday.

It was a 6-foot-7 piece.

Jamie Oleksiak, the hulking defenseman acquired in a midseason trade with Dallas last year, signed a three-year contract with the Penguins on Thursday, the team announced. The deal carries an average annual salary of $2,137,500.

Oleksiak, 25, was effective after joining the Penguins in December, recording four goals and 14 points in 47 games. His plus-13 rating was second to Justin Schultz’s plus-22 among the team’s defensemen. He also ranked tied for fifth in the league with seven fighting majors.

The new deal represents a significant raise for Oleksiak, who hit restricted free agency after making $964,688 last season and was headed for a July 28 arbitration hearing had the matter not been settled amicably.

The Penguins might have been able to sign Oleksiak to a contract with a smaller cap hit had they restricted the deal to one or two years, but general manager Jim Rutherford had no qualms making the longer commitment.

“He came in and he fit in nice with us,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We still see an upside to his game, but certainly a guy of that size who can skate the way he can and bring the physical element along with his skill level, we find him as a good fit in our top six.”

Exactly which side Oleksiak fits best on remains to be seen.

The return of Oleksiak coupled with the signing of free agent Jack Johnson gives the Penguins four left-handed defensemen in their top six. Rutherford said he thinks Johnson is the best equipped to play on the right side, but Oleksiak could make the switch as well.

“The coaches will play around with it and make that decision and see what fits the best,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford came into the offseason with the intention of tweaking his team’s personnel on defense. In the span of a few months, he has picked up Johnson, re-signed Oleksiak, traded Matt Hunwick to Buffalo and added Finnish free agent Juuso Riikola on a two-way deal.

“We accomplished the balance and depth part now,” Rutherford said. “We also signed Riikola out of Europe. We like him. We’ll see how long it takes for him to adjust to the NHL game, but yeah, we like the balance on defense and forward right now.”

With Oleksiak in the fold, the Penguins are about $1.4 million under the NHL’s $79.5 million salary cap with 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies under contract.

With the team presumably set on defense and in goal and exceptionally deep at center and right wing, the only area where further offseason roster alterations might make sense is at left wing. Coincidentally, Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, both left wings, are among the most high-profile players reportedly available on the trade block.

Rutherford, however, said he’s not anxious to make a deal. Centers Matt Cullen and Riley Sheahan have experience on the wing, and sliding Derick Brassard to a top-six spot on the left is an option, as is switching righty Bryan Rust to his off side.

“We feel comfortable with the lineup we have right now going into camp and we’ll take it from there,” Rutherford said. “With that being said, at this point in July, sometimes the odd player slips through the cracks. Thought they were getting signed on July 1. We’ll stay in the loop on that if we can find somebody that we feel can help our team. Other than that, that’s about it.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.