With Paul Martin gone and current unrestricted free agent Christian Ehrhoff unlikely to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 21-year-old defenseman Derrick Pouliot has been presented with a golden opportunity.
The top-end blueline prospect got his first taste of NHL action last season, scoring two goals and seven points in 34 NHL contests. It made him realize that he needs to be in even better physical condition going forward, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In order to do that he’s been training with fitness guru and former NHLer Gary Roberts. He’s also made substantial changes to his diet.
“It’s about getting my conditioning up so if I get caught out there I’m not dying trying to keep up,” Pouliot said. “It’s a little bit of a lifestyle change. I mean I’m not really a picky eater.”
Pouliot’s goal is to become a two-way defenseman and take on more, or at least “harder,” minutes after averaging 17:32 minutes per game last season.
Even with two veteran defensemen gone though, he will still be competing with Olli Maatta, Tim Erixon, and Brian Dumoulin for one of potentially two or three roster spots.
Pittsburgh locked up RFA defenseman Brian Dumoulin on Thursday, signing the 23-year-old to a two-year, $1.6 million extension.
Dumoulin, acquired in the Jordan-Staal-to-Carolina trade three years ago, will carry an average annual cap hit of $800,000 with the new deal.
A former standout at Boston College, Dumoulin was taken 51st overall by the Hurricanes in ’09 and has appeared in 14 games with Pittsburgh over the last two seasons. He did take a leap forward late last year, however, suiting up for all five games of the Penguins’ opening-round playoff loss to the Rangers, in which he averaged 14:06 TOI per game.
Based on current roster projections, he’ll be battling for a spot in Pittsburgh’s top six next year with the likes of Derrick Pouliot and Tim Erixon.
In a blockbuster deal that’s been rumored for some time now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have traded winger Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The return is a couple of well-regarded prospects, forward Kasperi Kapanen (22nd overall in 2014) and defenseman Scott Harrington (54th overall in 2011), plus a conditional first-round draft pick, a third-round draft pick (previously New Jersey’s) and forward Nick Spaling.
The Leafs also sent the Penguins defenseman Tim Erixon, forward Tyler Biggs and a conditional second-round draft pick.
Much has been said and written about Kessel’s time in Toronto, not all positive. But in Pittsburgh, he’ll be able to skate with two of the best centers in the world, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The 27-year-old played mostly with Tyler Bozak as his center with the Leafs.
Kessel, one of the NHL’s premier scoring wingers, has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games.
The Leafs were reportedly forced to eat $1.25 million of Kessel’s annual salary, leaving the Pens with a $6.75 million cap hit through 2021-22.
Related: Are we seeing the last of Kessel in Toronto?