PITTSBURGH STOCKS UP ON DEFENSEMEN IN FREE AGENCY

The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t expected to make a big splash in the free agency pool.  After their recent Stanley Cup victory and having most of their roster locked up already, only a few holes would have to be filled headed into the 2016-17 season.

But that didn’t stop the Pens from making an half dozen moves within the first few hours of the free agent frenzy – most of which figure to benefit the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

WE’RE STAYING

The first two players to sign on the dotted line were holdovers from last season. 

Forward Tom Sestito appeared in 41 regular season games with the AHL club, picking up 14 points and 104 penalty minutes (the second highest total on the team) despite missing significant time to injury.  The Rome, NY native brings a physical presence to the Pens, and provides the big club with an intimidating force when needed.

Steve Oleksy had a career year with Wilkes-Barre, setting single season highs in assists (17) and points (19) while donning the assistant captain’s ‘A’ in 63 AHL games.  The feisty blueliner also received several recalls to Pittsburgh, though he did not appear in a game with the NHL squad. 

FAMILIAR FACE

David Warsofsky started last season in the Penguins organization, splitting time between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh.  The NHL club attempted to return the defenseman to WBS, but the New Jersey Devils swooped in and claimed the former Bruins blueliner off of waivers.  In total, Warsofsy appeared in 22 NHL games last season, posting one goal.  He also suited up in 17 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, recording six points (2+4).

THE NEW GUYS

Pittsburgh continued to stock up on defensemen by bringing in three players on one-year, two-way deals.

Stuart Percy 23, is a former first-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs (25th overall in 2011).

A 6-foot-1, 187-pound left handed-shooter, Percy tallied 24 points (4G-20A) and was plus-3 in 58 AHL regular-season games for the Toronto Marlies last season, and contributed four assists in 14 playoff contests.  During the regular season he also made three appearances with the Maple Leafs.

Percy has played three full seasons and parts of two others with the Marlies, notching 64 points (10G-54A) in 177 regular-season appearances. He had three assists in 12 total NHL games with Toronto.

Chad Ruhwedel, 26, played the past four seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization, appearing in a total of 33 NHL games with the Sabres, registering two assists.  The 5-foot-11, 191-pound righthanded-shooting defender posted 26 points (10G-16A) in 59 games with the Rochester Americans last season, the second-straight year he reached double digits in goals.

A San Diego, California native, Ruhwedel (ROO-WEE-dehl) has appeared in 178 career AHL contests with the Americans, tallying 24 goals, 66 assists and 90 points. He had five points (2G-3A) in five AHL playoff contests.

Cameron Gaunce, 26, is coming off of a career year with the Portland Pirates, where his 35 assists and 37 points in 75 games both represented the highest totals of his pro career, and ranked him 17th (tied) among all AHL D-men in scoring. The 2016 AHL All-Star was also an alternate captain for the Pirates.

The lefthanded-shooting native of Sudbury, Ontario has played in 20 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, scoring one goal. He was originally selected by the Avalanche in the second round (50th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

Gaunce has appeared in 419 career AHL regular-season games for Lake Erie, Texas and Portland, producing 19 goals, 115 assists and 134 points to accompany his plus-51. He has 34 career games of AHL playoff experience as well.

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