Puljujarvi signs 2-year, $1.6 million contract with Penguins

CRANBERRY, Pa. — Jesse Puljujarvi signed a two-year, $1.6 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. It has an average annual value of $800,000.

The 25-year-old forward, who signed a professional tryout with the Penguins on Dec. 10, has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 13 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this season.

Puljujarvi could make his debut for Pittsburgh against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SN-PIT, TSN3), coach Mike Sullivan said. It would be his first NHL game since he had bilateral hip surgery this offseason.

“I’m feeling great,” Puljujarvi said. “I’ve been working really hard. It’s really nice to be part of this team right now.”

Puljujarvi skated at right wing on the third line with center Lars Eller and left wing Rickard Rakell at practice on Sunday.

“No pain. I’m really happy about that. I can keep playing pain free,” Puljujarvi said. “That has been the goal, just play the game. I’m really happy I’m at this point now. It’s been a really long journey to come here.”

Sullivan said Puljujarvi’s stint in the AHL allowed the Penguins to see if he could hold up physically following the hip prodcedure. Ultimately, his performance made them comfortable enough to offer a contract.

“I think that was part of the process, to get him into some games in Wilkes-Barre, give him an opportunity to get his feet under him and establish his game,” Sullivan said. “He had significant surgery. That was a substantial rehab process that he went through. So, that was part of it, without a doubt.

“I think with every game that he played he got better and better. So, here we are today.”

Puljujarvi had 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 75 regular-season games for the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes last season, including two assists in 17 games for Carolina after he was acquired in a trade with Edmonton on Feb. 28. He also had one assist in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Selected by the Oilers with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Puljujarvi has 114 points (51 goals, 63 assists) in 334 regular-season games for Carolina and Edmonton, and six points (three goals, three assists) in 27 postseason games.

“I think I can help this team when I’m skating well, making good plays and being myself,” Puljujarvi said. “I try to be energized every day, be smiling. I’m happy I’m here to be a part of this team.”

In addition to Puljujarvi, the Penguins (22-17-7) could have forward Reilly Smith and defenseman John Ludvig in the lineup on Tuesday. Smith, who was back at left wing on the second line in practice on Sunday, has been out since Jan. 11 because of an upper-body injury. Ludvig hasn’t played since Dec. 31 because of an upper-body injury.

“I think I try to base the season a game at a time,” Smith said. “That doesn’t change for me. Obviously, a long break between games, but my overall outlook on how the season progresses,…

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