The initial rush of free agent signings is in the rearview, and many players remain on the market. Forward Nazem Kadri and defenseman John Klingberg lead what remains of the 2022 free agent class. Several former Pittsburgh Penguins are also looking for a place to sign for next season.
The Penguins decided not to extend Heinen a qualifying offer last week, allowing him to walk to the free agent market. Heinen is coming off a career year, scoring 33 points in 76 games. The 27-year-old winger set a career-high in goals (18), 15 of them coming at five on five.
Last summer Heinen signed a one-year contract with the Penguins with a salary cap hit of $1.1 million. According to Josh Yohe of The Athletic, Heinen is looking for his next contract to come in at around the $3 million range.
Similar to Heinen, Rodrigues is coming off a career year with the Penguins. The Toronto native set new personal bests in goals (19) and points (43) while stepping up for an injured Penguins team early in the season.
Rodrigues is a valuable middle-six player that can switch between the wing and center ice positions and is coming off a one-year deal that saw him far outplay his $1 million cap hit. Rodrigues is expected to be searching for a considerable raise on a multi-year deal at his next stop.
Aston-Reese is on the open market for the first time in his career. His previous two contracts were signed as a restricted free agent, meaning this is uncharted territory for the defensive forward. The Penguins traded Aston-Reese last season at the NHL trade deadline as part of a package to acquire Rickard Rakell.
His latest contract was a one-year deal with the Penguins for $1.75 million. Don't expect Aston-Reese to fetch much more than that for his next contract due to his low scoring number and inability to finish offensively.
Still, the 27-year-old forward brings value on the defensive side of the puck and is a phenomenal penalty killer, making him a potentially valuable addition to someone's fourth line.
In his pursuit to become the NHL's "Iron-Man," Kessel is searching for his fifth team. While returning to Pittsburgh is not seemingly in the cards, Kessel still brings the middle six value on the wing. Kessel's playmaking ability was on full display last season for the Arizona Coyotes scoring 52 points (8-44) in 82 games.
At 34 years old, this is the first time Kessel has hit the free agent market. He is coming off of an eight-year deal initially signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2013. With his number steadily declining the past few seasons, Kessel figures to take a pay cut from his previous $8 million salary cap hit and figures to be a solid depth piece for whichever team signs him.
With the opening rush of signings in the books, the waiting game may have just begun for these former Penguins.
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