It’s no secret the Penguins could have used a boost on the power play last season.
At 17.9 percent, it was pretty much a middle-of-the-road unit. Of Eastern Conference playoff teams, that was tied for the second lowest conversion rate. No Penguin hit double-digits on the man-advantage, with Tom Kostopoulos and David Warsofsky both tallying nine goals (Jake Guentzel did have five before his permanent call-up).
Warsofsky, of course, is no longer with the team, leaving even more of an impetus for the forwards to produce. And on Wednesday, the team addressed that in a big way, signing winger Christian Thomas to a one-year AHL deal.
Thomas, who spent last season with the Hershey Bears, scored 24 goals in total — and half came on the man-advantage.
Granted, it helps to have guys like Chris Bourque and Travis Boyd attracting the attention of defenders, and that certainly played a role in his success. However, those 12 goals show me, at least, that Thomas has finishing power around the net. A lot of times last season, the Penguins were reliant on Warsofsky and other defensemen sneaking shots through traffic for scoring opportunities. Thomas, if nothing else, adds more balance to keep penalty killers occupied.
And while his 24 goals were by far Thomas’ most since his first full season in 2012-13, there would seem to be no indication that high number was a fluke. In 34 games the year prior, he had 10 goals, which equates to more than 20 spread out over a full season.
In summary, this is a great move by Guerin. Goaltending is as close to a sure thing as possible, and you would expect the penalty kill to be solid again. But the power play was a glaring need, and this move takes a big step toward fixing that.
Another note from Wednesday: Pittsburgh signed goalie Alex D’orio to an entry-level contract after his performance in the Prospects Challenge. The 18-year-old made 48 saves over his final two games at the event, so just another goaltending name to add to the pipeline.