Penguins add D Christian Ehrhoff; Orpik, Jokinen, Niskanen sign elsewhere

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PITTSBURGH —

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been active on the first day of free agency, signing several players.

The team quickly announced Tuesday that they have signed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year deal worth $4 million.

This move is something of a surprise because the Penguins are thin at forward and, as recently as four days ago, associate general manager Jason Botterill said “it's time for the young guys to play,” referring to defensemen such as Simon Despres and Scott Harrington.

Ehrhoff, a native of Germany, is 31 and recently had his contract bought out by the Buffalo Sabres. He is one of the NHL's more talented offensive defensemen and also has played for Vancouver and San Jose.

He has produced 69 goals and 313 points in 692 career games.

The Penguins also signed Arizona backup goalie Thomas Greiss to a one-year contract, an interesting move because the Penguins already have two goaltenders -- Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff -- signed to one-way NHL contracts. Greiss will make $1 million next season.

In addition, the Penguins signed veteran forward Blake Comeau to a one-year deal worth $700,000.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik, considered by many the heart and soul of the Penguins for the past decade, signed a 5-year contract worth $27.5 million with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

Orpik broke into the NHL in 2002 after being drafted in the first round in 2000 from Boston College.

He played in 703 games during his Penguins career and was a vital member of the 2009 Stanley Cup team.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Capitals announced they have signed defenseman Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million contract.

Niskanen's agent had said last week it appeared his client, who was coming off a career-high 46-point season, would test the free agent market.

Jussi Jokinen became the first Penguins player to depart, signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Florida Panthers

He was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in 2013, as Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, then the Hurricanes' general manager, infamously agreed to pay most of Jokinen's salary.

Jokinen responded by playing terrific hockey during the past two seasons, including a 21-goal campaign during last season while skating on center Evgeni Malkin's line.

The Penguins have also lost center Joe Vitale, who signed a three-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes, and forward Tanner Glass, who signed with the New York Rangers.

Defenseman Deryk Engelland also left Pittsburgh via free agency on Tuesday. He signed a three-year deal, worth $8.7 million with the Calgary Flames.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.