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Penguins Adding Grit Early in Free Agency

The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting tougher this summer.

The Pittsburgh Penguins management team made several comments about their desire to add some size and grit to this roster. Through the start of free agency, the Penguins have seemingly made good on that promise already.

Jan Rutta

The Pittsburgh Penguins' big signing on day one of free agency was two-time Stanley Cup Champion Jan Rutta. Rutta signed a three-year contract with a $2.75 million cap hit per season. The right-handed defenseman stands at 6'2", weighs 210 pounds, and instantly becomes the most rugged of the Penguin's defensive corps. He looks to slot in as the third pairing defenseman to play with young P.O. Joseph or to be a steadying presence for the free-wheeling Mike Matheson. Rutta played the last few years next to Victor Hedman and is used to playing the stay-at-home role on a defensive pairing.

Rutta not only brings a reliable presence but also has experience on the penalty kill. He should add a layer of insulation in front of goaltender Tristan Jarry. The Penguin's penalty kill struggled mightily last season at clearing out the net front area. Rutta's stronger frame and tougher demeanor will be a welcomed addition to this special team's unit.

Josh Archibald & Drake Cagguila

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a different look for their bottom six next season. The Penguins inked depth forwards Josh Archibald and Drake Cagguila to one-year contracts. These two will likely battle with AHL hopefuls Drew O'Connor and Radim Zohorna for the two final winger spots in the opening lineup.

Archibald brings more of that desired "grit" to the Pittsburgh Penguins. His best trait is his speed, making him a potential asset on the penalty-killing team. However, the 29-year-old forward has little offensive upside, so expectations are at an absolute minimum on the score sheet.

Drake Cagguila is a journeyman and a replacement-level player for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He doesn't possess any standout parts of his game, but he works hard and has shown an offensive touch in the past. He had a standout career in the NCAA and posted a career-high 13 goals back in 2017-2018. He also gives coach Mike Sullivan another penalty killer. Between him and Archibald, management added a pair of low-risk, medium upside players to their rotation.

Looking Ahead

The Pittsburgh Penguins don't seem finished making moves quite yet. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Penguins had agreed to a deal with forward Johan Larsson, but Penguins general manager Ron Hextall denied that report. If Larson is signed, he would be a strong addition to the bottom six. He is one of the strongest defensive players and penalty killers in the NHL. Pairing him with Teddy Blueger, Brock McGinn, and Jeff Carter instantly upgrades their penalty-killing unit.

Hextall has also indicated a trade could be coming for the Penguins. With nine NHL defensemen currently under contract, something has to give. Will they use this as an opportunity to add a forward or cap space and futures? It's unclear, but the Penguins have made an effort to get tougher to play against this summer. 

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