No surprise here, but it’s now official: Matt Niskanen is headed to free agency.
That’s what his agent, Neil Sheehy, confirmed on Thursday, explaining that the Pens’ blueliner spoke with the team and informed Pittsburgh that he’ll be testing the UFA market on July 1.
Niskanen figures to be a highly sought-after commodity. Coming off a year in which he scored a career-high 10 goals and 46 points, Niskanen — who finished 11th in Norris voting — is reported to be high on the wish lists of the Islanders (see here), Red Wings (see here) and Wild (see here), to name a few.
Just 27 and a right-hand shot, Niskanen should get a significant pay bump from the $2.3 million he earned annually on his last deal. That was a very cost-effective deal for Pittsburgh, especially given the production he provided in ’13-14; as such, new Pens GM Jim Rutherford admitted it would be difficult to keep Niskanen in the fold.
Niskanen has been with the Penguins since the 2010-11 campaign, when he was acquired as part of the James Neal-Alex Goligoski swap. No Pittsburgh blueliner has played more games over the last three years (196) and only one — Kris Letang — has scored more points than Niskanen’s 81.