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UFA of the Day: Matt Niskanen

Jun 6, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT

Matt Niskanen Getty Images

Check PHT each weekday for the first four weeks of June for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Matt Niskanen

There are plenty of teams interested in adding an offensively gifted right-handed shooting defenseman, but the pickings are already starting to thin.

Marek Zidlicky has re-signed with the New Jersey Devils while Dan Boyle might also sign before the unrestricted free agent period starts after the New York Islanders acquired his rights.

Both of those blueliners are 37 years old though (Boyle will turn 38 in July). If you want an offensively gifted defenseman still in the prime of his career, it looks like you’ll only have one option this summer: Niskanen.

There are reasons to be concerned about him. After recording 35 points in 2008-09, Niskanen regressed offensively and struggled for years to regain his footing. It was during this period that the Dallas Stars traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It wasn’t until this season that he really started to turn his career around as Niskanen finally broke out with 10 goals and 46 points in 81 games. Still, that all translates to him breaching the 30-point mark just twice in seven career seasons. With the market likely to go crazy for him given the lack of options, he will likely sign a massive long-term contract that will look very troubling if his 2013-14 success isn’t replicated.

That’s assuming of course that Niskanen makes it to the free agent period in the first place, which frankly seems like a safe bet. Although Niskanen hinted at the possibility of taking a hometown discount back in October, after his breakout season the Penguins have still likely been priced out of the market.

Pittsburgh already owes roughly $60 million in cap obligations to 14 players, per Cap Geek, so adding Niskanen on top of that would only further degrade its ability to assemble a team with some decent depth. Unless, of course, the Penguins decide to sign Niskanen and trade Kris Letang.

  1. pjblake2redwings - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Letang has a NTC so he isnt going anywhere and hopefully if Niskanen comes to Detroit like they want he doesnt fall apart like out last off season FA signing of Weiss…

    • steelpenbucs87 - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      NTC doesn’t kick in until July 1st so they could still trade him if they wanted. I think the more likely scenario would be dumping Scuds somewhere if they were going to go after Niskanen.

      • har21441 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        and once his NTC is in place, it is limited – Letang must supply the Pens yearly with a list of 10 teams he’s willing to be traded to. Not too bad….

      • har21441 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        also – where in the world will the Pens dump Scuds? What team in their right mind would assume a three year 3.375 mil contract for a broken down 35 year old defenseman?

        Don’t get me wrong – Scuds is a great guy and was big in helping the Pens win in 09, but his signing a contract that is not buyout eligible – with the depth of D the Pens have – was the most perplexing move of Shero’s tenure.

      • steelpenbucs87 - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:15 AM

        Obviously it would have to be a part of a larger deal, where a team taking on Scuds recognizes that its taking on salary.

        If we sent a young DMan (perhaps Dumolin since he may be the odd man out with Harrington, Pouliot, and the others) and Scuderi to the Panthers for a 4th rounder or something like that.

  2. ravanator - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    Overrated player on an irrelevant team. I see no reason this should be a story. Cheers!

    #capsfansarethebest
    #oviisgod

    • dipthatchip - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      I’d love to have Nisakanen on the Caps. Thanks for making Caps and Ravens fans look like buttholes.
      -Caps and Ravens fan.

    • capsnbohs23 - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      easy with the hashtags man

      • 6superbowls - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        Dude’s a Pgh troll with little to no knowledge of sports.

  3. mildfan - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    He is a risk, if he is not with the right offensive players his points will decrease and he is not great defensively.

  4. jkaplan11 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Someone will overpay for this guy

  5. hockey412 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    If Martin and Niskanen were both left shots I’d be all for trading Martin and keeping Niskanen. I’m sure he’ll want to test the waters…hopefully someone will offer something for his rights before July.

  6. joey4id - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Hmmm! Niskanen in LA after they buyout Richards would be a heck of an addition. Kings could use a bit more mobility & youth on the back end with Greene(31), Mitchell(37), and Regehr(34) all in their 30s. Pretty strong d-men with Doughty 24, Niskanen 27, Martinez 26, Voynov 24, Muzzin 25, Greene (31)

    • pjblake2redwings - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      you listed greene twice…idiot

      • joey4id - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:36 AM

        Hehehehe! Great comment! Thanks!

        First time I listed him in the 30 and above d men category, then added him to the list of the 6 regular d-men to be part of the team next year. Very few teams ever dress only 5 d-men. a$$hole.

  7. djshnooks - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    You give Boyle’s and Zidlicky’s age…but not Niskanen’s, who the story’s about?

  8. flyboystransport - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Good defenseman but gonna be way overpaid for what he does. He isn’t a top 2 dman so anything over 5.5 a year is too much. Wouldn’t mind him on the flyers

  9. snipedanglecelly13 - Jun 6, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    Redwings will sign him!

  10. blackandyellow71 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    I’d love to see us dump Scuds too. There’s always those couple teams looking to add salary to get to the cap floor. As for Nisky, he had a great year and I’m guessing he led the d-men in games played with 81, but was inconsistent with his play. He has some work to do before he’s a legitimate top-2 guy. I Wish him luck going forward, but with this market I think that will be somewhere other than Pittsburgh.

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