Newcomer Spaling signs 2-year deal to avoid arbitration

PENGUINS NOTEBOOK


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The Penguins and forward Nick Spaling avoided an arbitration hearing that had been scheduled Thursday when they agreed to a two-year, $4.4 million contract shortly before the hearing. It carries a $2.2 million annual salary-cap hit and runs through the 2015-16 season.

Spaling, 25, had been a restricted free agent. He earned $1.5 million last season with Nashville.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said getting a second year on the contract was something the team sought. If Spaling's contract had been decided by an arbitrator, it would have been a one-year deal.

"To me, it seems like a fair deal," Rutherford said. "We really like Nick. We know he's going to play a good role."

The Penguins acquired Spaling and winger Patric Hornqvist from the Predators for winger James Neal in a draft weekend trade in June. He had 13 goals, 32 points -- both career highs -- in 71 games last season.

Spaling is a versatile forward who has been projected as a third-line winger.

"We'll see at camp," Rutherford said. "He's coming out of a role and a system where it was more of a defensive system. Now, he's going to go into a new system that could give him an opportunity to put more points up. Mike [Johnston, the Penguins coach] will have to see how things go."

Signing Sutter next task

Center Brandon Sutter is the Penguins' only remaining restricted free agent.

"The best way to characterize the process is it's moving in the right direction," Rutherford said. "I would suspect by next week we might be able to get something done."

Sutter, 25, earned $2.7 million last season but had a salary-cap hit of $2.06 million. The Penguins have a little more than $4 million in cap space.

Sutter had a strong postseason, posting five goals, seven points in 13 games. In the regular season, when he had an ever-changing cast of linemates, he had 13 goals, 26 points and a career-worst plus-minus average of minus-9 for 81 games.

Most major tasks are done

Besides Sutter, there are not a lot of pressing concerns remaining this offseason for Rutherford, who was hired June 6.

He fired Dan Bylsma as coach and hired Johnston, whose staff is complete. He assembled a large managerial staff. He oversaw the draft. He made the Neal trade. And re-signed only center Marcel Goc among the Penguins' unrestricted free agents while signing defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, goaltender Thomas Greiss and forwards Blake Comeau and Steve Downie.

"That doesn't mean it stops there," Rutherford said. "There are still players out there that potentially could sign a contract or get a tryout at camp.

"With that being said, I do feel very comfortable with the fact that we knew we were going to lose some players in free agency based on the contracts they got and not being able to fit them under the cap. I'm comfortable with the players we got in their place."

Some ticket information

Individual-game tickets for the Penguins' 2014-15 home schedule will go on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 6.

They will be available through Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com, 1-800-745-3000 and Pittsburgh area locations) and at the Consol Energy Center box office.

Tickets for two preseason home games, against Detroit Sept. 22 and against Minnesota Sept. 25, go on sale at 10 a.m. Aug. 18 through the same outlets. A third preseason home game, Sept. 27 against Columbus, is the team's annual "Free Game for Kids," and tickets will not be sold to the public.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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