Remember Janne Pesonen? European free agency hasn’t been panacea for Penguins |

Remember Janne Pesonen? European free agency hasn’t been panacea for Penguins

Jonathan Bombulie
The Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal (11) crashes into the Penguins’ Juuso Riikola (50) and goaltender Matt Murray (30) during the first period Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C.

Having traded away multiple draft picks in recent years in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, the Pittsburgh Penguins have to find other ways to replenish their prospect pool.

They’ve had some success in signing undrafted college free agents, adding Zach Aston-Reese, Casey DeSmith and Conor Sheary via that avenue in recent years.

They’ve had significantly less success when signing undrafted European free agents.

Oula Palve, the 27-year-old Finnish center signed by the Penguins last week, is the sixth high-profile undrafted European free agent the team has brought in over the last 12 years. It’s not exactly a star-studded list.

Juuso Riikola, who had two goals and five points in 37 games before being sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, is probably the greatest success story. He’s still 25 and will be a restricted free agent in July, so the team will likely bring him back for another season.

Beyond that, the pickings have been slim.

Lukas Bengtsson showed promise as a puck-moving defense, but after two injury plagued seasons in Wilkes-Barre, he went back to Sweden.

Sergei Plotnikov was a bust in 2015-16, failing to score a goal in 32 games before being shipped off to Arizona at the trade deadline.

Niclas Andersen was a depth defenseman signed that same year. He has a decent season in Wilkes-Barre, recording 14 points in 69 games, but he never sniffed the NHL and quickly went back to Europe.

The most ballyhooed European free-agent signing in recent years was the addition of Finnish scoring sensation Janne Pesonen in 2008-09. He tore up the AHL, posting 32 goals and 82 points in 70 games, but flopped at the NHL level, failing to record a point in seven games.

Undrafted European free agents in their 20s rarely command much in the way of salary, so the Penguins are paying no real penalty for having more misses than hits in this category of player acquisition in recent seasons.

As a frequently cap-strapped club, however, scratching off a few winning European lottery tickets would make filling their roster easier as the Crosby-Malkin era gets into its latter stages.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all offseason long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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