Penguins Sign Lars Eller to 2-Year Deal

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed center Lars Eller to a two-year contract worth $2.45 million in average annual value (AAV), according to Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet. Eller is a 14-year NHL veteran who’s played for the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, and Colorado Avalanche.

Penguins Add Eller

Eller consistently provided value down the middle in the bottom six for seven seasons in Washington. He contributed to an effective offense as a secondary scoring option behind star talent like Alexander Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Tom Wilson. He consistently played a role on the penalty kill for a team that reached the playoffs in all seven of his seasons there. He faced the Penguins in two of those playoff appearances.

Lars Eller Washington Capitals
Former Washington Capitals Center Lars Eller (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

NHL teams salivate for players with as much postseason experience as the 34-year-old Danish center. He’s played 103 career games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including roles for the Montreal Canadiens when they reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 and most notably the 2018 Capitals team that won their only Stanley Cup in franchise history. His offensive production during the 2018 Playoffs far exceeded his career averages, as he finished seven goals and 11 assists in 24 games.

Fit with Penguins

The Capitals dealt Eller to the Colorado Avalanche before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline in March. He scored three goals and added seven assists in 24 regular-season games, and he went without a point in seven playoff games in Colorado’s disappointing exit at the hands of the Seattle Kraken. The Avalanche played five games without Valeri Nichushkin and the entire series without Gabriel Landeskog, and the thinning offensive attack forced Eller to play a bigger role than head coach Jared Bednar would’ve ideally planned.

However, his value with the Penguins will come in the bottom six and on the penalty kill. His 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame fit well with the heavy style that helped the Capitals become one of the powerhouse teams of the Eastern Conference throughout his tenure in Washington, and he provides the type of veteran presence that NHL dressing rooms rely on.

Related: 2023 NHL Free Agency Tracker

The Penguins are stuck in an awkward position for their franchise. Former general manager (GM) Ron Hextall invested heavily in accomplished veterans Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Bryan Rust by handing out three long-term contracts last offseason to keep Sidney Crosby’s supporting cast intact. However, Pittsburgh fired Hextall after they failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

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They’ve shown no intention to rebuild, however, beginning with the move to hire former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas as President of Hockey Operations. The Eller signing is now the latest in a series of moves to construct a veteran roster to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2023-24. The additions of Noel Acciari, Ryan Graves, and Alex Nedeljkovic and a new contract for Tristan Jarry indicate an aggressive strategy designed to push with all force against the closing window of opportunity for some of the best players in franchise history.