Published on February 26th, 2013 | by James Conley0
Penguins Sign D Mark Eaton to One-Year Deal
A key piece of the defense corps which propelled the Penguins to consecutive Finals appearances in 2008 and 2009, defenseman Mark Eaton signed a one-year deal to play with the Penguins through the 2013 season.
Eaton’s one-year, $725,000 deal was signed on Monday. Evgeni Malkin, who has been ruled out for at least the next three games as the team monitors his concussion symptoms, was placed on IR retroactive to last Friday to make room for Eaton’s contract.
“They know what they’re getting with me,” Eaton said. “I’m just going to work hard and contribute anyway that I can.”
Eaton played with the Penguins from 2006-2010, appearing in 218 regular season games and 42 playoff games, including all 24 contests in the 2009 Championship run. Though Eaton played on a third pairing in Pittsburgh, he logged regular minutes as well as some situational ice time on the penalty kill, logging seven goals and 31 points in his 218 RS games with Pittsburgh.
With the addition of the former stay-at-home defenseman, the Pens now have eight blue liners at the NHL level.
“It feels great. It’s a great organization, first class. To be back to see all the familiar faces and be a part of a winning team, I’m excited to be back.”
Pittsburgh has always placed a premium on defensive depth. That depth took a hit this year as Brian Strait was lost to a waiver claim at the beginning of the year. The team also traded Ben Lovejoy to the Anaheim Ducks after it was clear Lovejoy wasn’t going to get regular playing time in Pittsburgh.
The team also never acquired a clear replacement for Zbynek Michalek, who was traded back to Phoenix in the offseason.
The top-four is set in stone with Brooks Oprik, Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen, but Eaton’s signing helps bring depth to the third pairing, where having options may be more important than having consistency.
The Penguins still have almost $9 million in cap space this season. They seem to be set along the blue line, where Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Deryk Engelland are already jockeying for nightly playing time on the third pairing.
However, Shero’s past work at the trade deadline means another big acquisition can’t be ruled out.
If carrying eight defensemen is a luxury in the playoffs, it will be a logjam through the rest of the regular season. Simon Despres is the likely odd-man out, as his contract can be sent back to Wilkes-Barre without being exposed to waivers. Engelland and Bortuzzo aren’t waiver-safe assets.
Of course, injuries can (and likely will) make that depth a necessity at some point.