"New faces in new places" has become a theme for the Pittsburgh Penguins addressing their defense core this summer. Bringing in three new defensemen will push some of the blue line's depth pieces into a different role heading into next season. A forgotten player in all of this is Mark Friedman.
Friedman spent last season as the Penguin's seventh defenseman, coming in relief early in the season while the team struggled with injuries on their back end. However, once the Penguins got healthy on the blue line, they stayed healthy. The top six lineups stayed the same for multiple months, leaving Friedman in the press box and off the ice.
The 26-year-old blueliner played in 26 games throughout the regular season but was called upon in the playoffs after Brian Dumoulin tore his MCL in Game 1. He isn't an offensive threat, finishing last season with five points (1-4). However, what he lacks in offensive ability, he makes up for with his aggressiveness.
Friedman played the role of the mouthpiece for the Penguins when in the lineup. He can get under opponents' skin like few others in the NHL. Beyond that, the Toronto native was a sturdy defender on the bottom pair alongside Chad Ruhwedel.
With the acquisitions of Ty Smith and Jan Rutta and the expected graduation of P.O. Joseph to the NHL level, Friedman is left with a very unspecified role on next year's team.
Penguins general manager Ron Hextall likes having Friedman on the roster. Hextall drafted Friedman in 2014 when he held the same position with the Philadelphia Flyers. He brought Friedman to the Penguins via waivers just ten days after landing the Pittsburgh job. Not only that, but Hextall re-signed Friedman to a two-year extension this past March.
While management and the coaching staff have spoken highly of Friedman's game, the organization's focus on adding size and strength on the back end differs from Friedman's 5'11" frame.
A positive factor for Friedman is adaptability and the ability to play on both sides. However, two of the newest defense acquisitions, Jan Rutta and Ty Smith, possess the same ability.
Plenty is left to be determined for the Penguin's defense, potentially including another trade. But with Friedman seemingly sitting in the fifth spot on either side of the blue line, you have to question how much we will see of him this season.
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