The free agency express rolls on for the Pittsburgh Penguins and they have grafted a couple more bodies on to their roster. First they re-signed one of their own in bringing back goaltender Brad Thiessen on a one-year deal, then it was a one-year deal for free agent defenseman Alexandre Picard.
Keeping Thiessen in the organization is a great move, as he has gotten better with each passing year. At this point, unless he takes gargantuan steps forward this season he is primed to take over the back-up role at the NHL level as soon as next next year. The former Hobey Baker finalist is a nice asset to have behind the steady Brent Johnson who has one year remaining on his deal.
Picard is a nice depth signing as he is mobile, can move the puck and can chip in offensively. This is the type of defenseman that Ray Shero likes to have in the organization as it gives the team options in the case of injury etc. I would fully expect Picard to star the year in Wilkes Barre-Scranton, but if things go as they have the past couple of seasons he will get the chance to play a couple of games before it is all said and done.
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Thiessen’s is a two-way deal that will pay him $525,000 at the NHL level. The
Thiessen, 25, is coming off a career year for the Penguins’ top minor-league affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL). In 46 games for WBS, Thiessen posted a 35-8-1 record, 1.94 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Thiessen led the entire AHL and established WBS franchise records with his 35 victories and seven shutouts. Those numbers helped earn Thiessen the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s top goaltender. Thiessen and his crease partner, John Curry, shared the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award as the duo that allowed the fewest regular-season goals (183) in the AHL.
A native of Aldergrove, BC, Thiessen’s outstanding season earned him a berth on the First-Team All-AHL squad, two Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month Awards (October; February) and the starting nod for the Eastern Conference at the 2011 AHL All-Star Game (which he missed due to injury).
Thiessen appeared in 12 postseason games for WBS this spring, posting a 6-6 overall record, 1.67 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and two shutouts.
Thiessen, who signed with the Pittsburgh organization as an undrafted free agent on April 8, 2009, has appeared in 76 career regular-season games for WBS, going 49-22-2 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. His 11 career regular-season shutouts are a WBS franchise record.
Thiessen spent three seasons playing at Northeastern University from 2006-09. During that time he appeared in 111 games, posting a 52-46-12 record. Following his junior season at Northeastern, Thiessen became a traveling member of the ‘Black Aces’ taxi squad throughout the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup championship run.
Picard’s deal is also a two-way one that will pay the blue-liner $600,000 at the NHL level.
Picard, 25, spent the 2010-11 season with the Montreal Canadiens after signing with Montreal as a free agent on July 31 of last year. In 43 games with the Canadiens, Picard amassed three goals, five assists and eight points.
A 6-foot-2, 220-pound blueliner, Picard has appeared in 236 career regular-season games for the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes and Canadiens. During that time the Gatineau, QC native has collected 19 goals, 46 assists and 65 points.
Originally drafted by Philadelphia in the third round (85th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Picard’s best offensive season came with the Flyers in 2006-07 when he established career highs in assists (19) and points (22) in 62 games.
Prior to joining the Flyers, Picard spent four seasons playing junior hockey with Halifax and Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). In 255 career games, Picard totaled 31 goals, 91 assists, 122 points and a plus-88 rating. He added 17 points (4G-13A) in 56 postseason contests.
During Picard’s lone season with Cape Breton in 2003-04, he was teammates with Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.