The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed their last remaining restricted free agent by striking a two-year deal with center Brandon Sutter. The Pens announced Sutter's deal comes with an annual average of $3.3 million starting next season.
Sutter has been with the Penguins for the last two years after he came over from the Carolina Hurricanes in the trade that sent Jordan Staal the other way. The 25-year-old center has been trying to find his way with the Penguins in terms of point production, but he did well enough in a depth role for the team last season.
Sutter posted 13 goals and 26 points last season while averaging nearly 16 minutes a night as the team's No. 3 center. He also saw significant time on the team's penalty kill. In 13 postseason contests, Sutter peformed well with seven points including five goals, while also winning 55 percent of his faceoffs.
Though the Penguins' depth has been a concern over the last few years, Sutter remains a bright spot as he still has potential to tap into heading into his seventh NHL season.
Pittsburgh probably expected more production out of Sutter at this point after he put up a 40-point season in just his second year in the league. That said his points-per-game average has dipped by only 0.02 between his time in Pittsburgh and Carolina.
Sutter has accumulated 152 points in 415 NHL games. He was the 11th overall selection by Carolina in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The short-term commitment buys just one year of Sutter's unrestricted free agency eligibility, which may be why the cost per-year was a bit higher. The new deal also represents about a $1.3 million raise from his previous annual average.
By going with two years the Penguins give Sutter plenty of incentive to prove he belongs with the team long term. If he can establish a bit more production and bring more defensive value to the club overall, he very well may be worth keeping around longer.
Sutter has looked like a player with a bright future for much of his career, but seems to stop short of taking that next step forward. This deal is going to force him to prove he can realize his full potential in hopes of either a bigger payday in unrestricted free agency or enticing the Pens to lock him down to a long-term deal.