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Drake Caggiula's Impact for the Penguins

What can the Pittsburgh Penguins expect from Drake Caggiula this season?

Drake Caggiula joins the Pittsburgh Penguins at an intriguing time. The organization is desperately trying to push for a fourth Stanley Cup in the Sidney Crosby era but is becoming more aware that the end of that era is not too far away. 

Caggiula doesn't figure to be a top contributor in his first season in Pittsburgh but could become a role player. The Penguins signed the 28-year-old to a one-year contract in July worth $750K at the NHL level. 

Heading into his seventh NHL season, Caggiula has become synonymous with the injury report, playing only 29 games over the past two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. His latest injury, a herniated disk in his neck, forced him out of most of last season. After initially attempting to rehab the injury naturally, Caggiula opted for a season ending surgery in February with a return timetable of six to eight months. 

At the outset of this offseason, Penguins general manager Ron Hextall spoke about giving opportunities to younger players inside the organization but stressed that he doesn't want to force them into NHL roster spots. 

"It's comforting to us that we have a few kids that are on the verge of coming up and being ready to play at this level," Hextall said. "It's not forcing them into this level because you might as well leave them down there (AHL)."

Signing players like Caggiula and Josh Archibald, and trading for Ryan Poehling, ensures that the Penguins won't have to force young players into the NHL before they're ready. 

With Caggiula, the Penguins bring a speedy utility forward that can "plug and play" anywhere in the lineup. He does have a scoring touch to his game, despite a career-high of 13 goals with the Edmonton Oilers in 2018. Caggiula will likely fight for the 13th forward position with Archibald, Poehling, and Radim Zohorna. 

In 278 career games, Caggiula has scored 46 goals and 91 points. Expect Caggiula to fill the role of someone like Dominik Simon without the unexpected top line minutes. He is expected to be primarily used as an injury replacement and will have to capitalize on his opportunities to earn more playing time. Caggiula hasn't played much special teams in his career, but his speed could be valuable to the Penguins as a depth penalty killer. 

Hextall's addition of Drake Caggiula is by no means "the steal of the century" but should provide the Penguins a reliable depth option as the season progresses. 

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