PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins and forward Zach Aston-Reese avoided arbitration on Monday, agreeing to a two-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 season.
The deal is worth $1 million annually. The two sides came together minutes before heading to arbitration.
”We were actually setting up for the meeting and kind of right before it started, right at nine o’clock, it got done,” Aston-Reese said. ”Right on time.”
Aston-Reese, 24, posted career highs in goals (eight) and assists (nine) despite being limited to 43 games because of a hand injury. Aston-Reese – who skated alongside Sidney Crosby on the top line but also put in work with the fourth line – gives the Penguins more options as they try to bounce back from a first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders.
”Zach is a responsible player who plays a solid two-way game,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. ”He has a heavy style of play that is especially effective on the forecheck and penalty kill.”
Aston-Reese admitted he was relieved to get a new contract ironed out before going through arbitration.
”It’s a little bit awkward and I was just really happy to get the deal done before that meeting began,” he said. ”You hear stories of things like that and it’s no coincidence that only what, 5% actually go through with the meeting. I was happy to avoid that.”
He may have gotten away with it during Tuesday’s game, but Tom Wilson didn’t escape the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Wednesday.
The Washington Capitals forward was handed a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese.
Wilson wasn’t penalized on the play. Aston-Reese suffered a broken jaw and a concussion stemming from the collision in the second period.
Wilson will be eligible to return to the Capitals lineup for Game 7 of the series, if it makes it there. The Capitals currently lead the Penguins 2-1 after a 4-3 win on Tuesday.
[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]
DOPS head George Parros said Wilson elevated his left shoulder into the hit, causing Aston-Reese’s head to become the main point of contact.
Parros determined that the hit was avoidable and that Aston-Reese made no sudden move to result in the headshot. He also noted that Wilson could have made a full-body hit, but instead changes course, extends up onto the toes of his skate.
“The onus is on the player to ensure this upward motion does not pick the head in a way that makes it the main point of contact,” Parros said.
Wilson falls into the repeat offender category as stipulated in the CBA.
Wilson escaped unscathed in Game 2 after catching defenseman Brian Dumoulin in the head.
Wilson is the second player to be suspended for three games after Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was given the same suspension for the same offense in the first round.
Wilson was last suspended for an illegal check on Blues forward Sammy Blais during the preseason. The incident cost the Capitals forward the first four games of the regular season. Earlier in the preseason, Wilson also sat for two games for interfering with Blues forward Robert Thomas.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck