The offseason is always interesting for teams in the NHL. There can be trades and also free agent signings. One topic that is often overlooked is the re-signing of players. A team keeping their players is just as important as acquiring them. With a plethora of Pittsburgh Penguins’ players needing re-signed, the team has decisions to make. These are the three players that need to be re-signed the most in the 2021 offseason.
A native of Riga, Latvia, Teddy Blueger was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NHL draft. He was lucky that he was drafted by the Penguins. Why? Because now-teammate and captain Sidney Crosby was his hockey idol growing up. Blueger even chose to play hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota because that is where Crosby played. Although it took him a while to earn a roster spot, Blueger is a huge part of Pittsburgh’s lineup.
Blueger is not known for putting up the points. After all, in 140 career games he has only 54 points. However, this doesn’t mean he is without worth. Blueger’s defensive play alone is more than enough for any team to snatch him up. This is exactly why the Penguins need to re-sign him. He is a valuable fourth liner, and he could be signed for not that much money. While he has increased in worth, he could still be signed to a bridge deal consisting of around $1.5-$2 million. Blueger could be a big part of Pittsburgh’s future, so re-signing him is extremely important.
Although he would’ve likely been in the same draft class as Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese was undrafted. He went on to play on the Northeastern Huskies, a Division I NCAA team. There, Aston-Reese improved his game so much that he was named the Hockey East Player of the Year. This likely caught a lot of NHL attention, and the Pittsburgh Penguins signed him in 2017.
Aston-Reese and Blueger’s style of play is astonishingly similar. Both players are known for their defensive play, so much so that they both play on the same line. That being said, re-signing Aston-Reese is just as imperative as Blueger. Taking away big parts of the fourth line and also the penalty-killing unit would only lead to a disastrous outcome for the Penguins.
The right-handed defenseman was drafted 15th overall in the 2012 draft by the Ottawa Senators. Ceci played for Ottawa from 2013 until 2019, when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. After he was traded to the Maple Leafs, he would become the topic of ridicule and controversy. His play was deemed questionable and was not worth his $4.3 million price tag. Because of this, Toronto didn’t re-sign Ceci. Instead, the Penguins signed him as a free agent in 2020 to a one year, $1.25 million contract.
At the time, Penguins fans were irate. Because he struggled so much with the Maple Leafs he was destined to struggle even more with the Penguins, right? Not exactly. While he did have some questionable plays throughout the season, he was a very good defender. His stay-at-home defensive style proved effective as his partner, Mike Matheson, is more offensively inclined.
All three of these players deserve to be re-signed. The one thing they have in common: they all play outstanding defense. Blueger and Aston-Reese are huge parts of the penalty-killing unit, and Ceci is a solid defenseman. What is also beneficial to Pittsburgh is that these three players could possibly be signed to cheaper contracts, leaving open some much needed cap space.