As expected, the Penguins have lost a few members of their Stanley Cup-winning team.
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy (above) signed a three-year contract worth $6 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.1 million, Lovejoy's new deal will have a cap hit of $2.66 million.
Lovejoy, 32, appeared in 66 games for the Penguins last season and scored 10 points (four goals, six assists). In 24 postseason game, he scored six points (two goals, four assists.
Largely used in a defensive role, Lovejoy routinely drew assignments against opponent's top forwards. A strong skater with limited puck skills, Lovejoy's strengths are primarily defensive in nature.
Lovejoy will rejoin a number of familiar faces in New Jersey such as general manager Ray Shero, assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald as well as right winger Beau Bennett. With the Devils having traded right-handed defenseman Adam Larsson this week, Lovejoy, also a right-handed shot, would appear to fill an immediate void for the team.
Additionally, the Penguins lost backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff who signed a two-year contract worth $1.8 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $600,000, Zatkoff's new deal will have a $900,000.
Zatkoff, 29, appeared in 14 games for the Penguins last season and had a 2.79 goals against average as well as a .917 save percentage.
After losing the No. 2 role to rookie Matt Murray, Zatkoff was pressed into starting duties for the first two games of the postseason while Murray and Fleury were sidelined due to injuries. Zatkoff went 1-1 with a 3.08 goals against average and .908 save percentage.
Zatkoff (right) spent parts of the past three seasons with the Penguins. He was originally drafted by the Kings in 2006 in the third round but never reached the NHL level with that organization. He will likely serve as a backup to
EN Says: These aren't surprising moves. General manager Jim Rutherford estimated he only has approximately $1 million of salary cap space to work with and even at their modest salaries, Lovejoy and Zatkoff weren't going to re-sign.
Lovejoy really turned his fortunes around over the past calendar year. Acquired at the 2015 trade deadline in a questionable trade which sent defenseman Simon Despres to the Ducks, Lovejoy struggled in the 2015 postseason. He entered 2015-16 with a lot of scrutiny directed at him and he responded by becoming a very reliable and dependable second-pairing defender.
With Lovejoy's departure and the possible loss of defenseman Justin Schultz, the Penguins could end up losing two right-handed defensemen this offseason. Given head coach Mike Sullivan's strong preference for right-lefty defensive pairings, there is room for concern in losing both players.
With the emergence of Murray as well as a build-up of organizational depth in goaltenders Tristan Jarry, Sean Maguire and Filip Gustavsson, Zatkoff was a luxury the Penguins couldn't afford.
(Photos: Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Eric Risberg/Associated Press)