The Pittsburgh Penguins added more bite to their bottom six on Friday by signing physical right wing role player Arron Asham to a one-year deal worth $700K. The move signals the redefinition of what the Penguins’ 3rd/4th lines will bring to the mix this coming season with Jordan Staal’s anticipated move to the top 6. Specifically….grit, tenacity, energy, passion, and versatility. Asham completes a bottom six pool that already includes Michael Rupp, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy, and Eric Godard…..an already tenacious combination of role players that serve as the supporting cast to the Penguins’ existing top six. Over the past couple of seasons the Penguins’ 3rd line has served as an extension of the first two, with the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy combination providing energy and responsible two-way play to establish a relentless third wave scoring threat. With Staal’s anticipated move to the second line and the addition of Asham to the mix, that complexion changes. The new look will concentrate the Penguins’ most potent offensive talent in the top two lines, making them a scary opponent to defend against. This will be complemented by a high energy, versatile, grinding presence in the 3rd/4th lines fully equipped to wear down the opposition. When coupled with the revamped defensive lineup that added Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, The Penguins should be a very tough and competitive team to play against.
Drafted in the 3rd round in 1996 (71st overall) by the Montreal Canadiens, the 32-year old Asham has played a total of 648 regular season and 52-post season games in the NHL. After spending 4 seasons in Montreal, he was traded to the New York Islanders where he played another 4 seasons before playing a year in New Jersey and then two seasons in Philadelphia. Known for his work ethic and ability to play strong along the boards, Asham can also crash the net and create scoring chances. His most productive season was in 2002/03 while playing for the Islanders, when he scored a career high 34 points (15G, 19A) in 78-games. He typically produces about 8-10 goals and 20-25 points a season. His career post-season best occurred this past year with the Flyers when he scored 4-goals and 7-points in 23 games. As a role player, he can be a very solid contributor to the team and comes at an affordable price.
The interesting side story on the Asham signing will be how he fits in on a team that was his cross-state rival just a few months ago. “My time in Philly was great but it’s in the past now,” Asham said Friday. “It is a great rivalry and fun to be a part of. I’m just switching sides. I’m still going out there and playing my hardest. I’m doing what it takes to win and playing good hockey. All friendships are put on hold until the game is over. It’s a great rivalry and I’m looking forward to it.” Perhaps more intriguing is the relationship he will have with new teammate (and potential linemate) Matt Cooke, a player that Asham openly stated he had no respect for and called “gutless” just a few months ago. Hockey smack talk, or genuine sentiment? Likely a little of both. Hopefully these two can bury the hatchet and find some common ground to rally upon together. Like Cooke, Asham has high potential for becoming a player that is loved in Pittsburgh, and despised everywhere else.
Asham’s $700K signing leaves about $1.5M in cap space for the Penguins, who stated that they will make a decision on veteran Bill Guerin in the coming week. This assumes Tangradi and Lovejoy are on the roster come October, which is not yet a given.