Penguins notebook: Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon sign two-year deals
Coming into Monday, six of the Penguins players penciled into next season’s opening-night roster were restricted free agents.
Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon got new contracts Monday. Bryan Rust and Jamie Oleksiak got qualifying offers before a 5 p.m. deadline and remain property of the Penguins. Riley Sheahan and Tom Kuhnhackl got nothing and could become unrestricted free agents July 1.
That doesn’t mean Sheahan, projected to be the team’s fourth-line center, is on his way out.
General manager Jim Rutherford said when a team makes a qualifying offer to a player with arbitration rights like Sheahan, there’s a chance the arbitrator could award a salary that wreaks havoc on the club’s cap projections.
Rather than take that risk, the Penguins gambled they can work out an agreeable contract with Sheahan before he flies the coop. Last year, he had 11 goals and 32 points in 73 games with the Penguins playing on a $2.075 million contract.
If things go haywire, Rutherford said he considers prospect Teddy Blueger ready to challenge for a fourth-line center job.
“The way he plays the game is very smart. He can play that role,” Rutherford said.
The chances of Kuhnhackl staying in a Penguins uniform are much slimmer. Rutherford said he wants more offense from his fourth line next season. Kuhnhackl is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who excels on the penalty kill, but he only scored two goals in 69 games last season.
The Penguins also did not make qualifying offers to defenseman Frankie Corrado and Vincent Dunn.
Corrado played seven games for the Penguins as a call-up option the past two seasons. He suffered a season-ending knee injury last February. Dunn was a throw-in in the Derick Brassard trade.
Sprong and Simon, meanwhile, look to figure prominently in the team’s plans next season. Both signed two-year, one-way contracts with an average annual salary of $750,000.
Sprong, 21, is the team’s top offensive prospect. The Penguins have been hesitant to install him in the lineup previously because of his play away from the puck.
“There’s no question he’s going to score goals, even if he has some bad habits somewhere else,” Rutherford said. “I’m not sure that’ll go over too big with the coach. He’s going to have to do the little things right to maintain that position (in the top nine).”
Rutherford said he expects big things from Simon, 23, especially if he learns to keep his shifts shorter at the NHL level.
“He’s a guy that can play left side, right side. He can play up and down the lineup. He can be a very good player for us,” Rutherford said.
The Penguins also re-signed Kevin Czuczman, one of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s defensemen last season, to a one-year, two-way contract that pays $650,000 in the NHL.
The Penguins announced the 38-man roster for their annual development camp, which will be held later this week in Cranberry.
All four choices from last weekend’s draft will attend. Top prospect Jordy Bellerive, who suffered burns in a fire-pit explosion earlier this month, is not scheduled to be there.
Longtime NHL forward Marco Sturm will attend the camp as a guest coach.
The NHL will announce the 2018 Hall of Fame class Tuesday. The list of first-year candidates includes goalie Martin Brodeur and former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar.
Rutherford, the only GM to win the Stanley Cup with two different teams in the expansion era, is practically a lock for enshrinement some day. The only question is whether that day is Tuesday.