UFA signing breakdown: Ehrhoff to Pens

What curious days for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have at times looked a little aimless since firing GM Ray Shero and later head coach Dan Bylsma after blowing a 3-1 second-round playoff series lead to the New York Rangers.

Well, adding one of the top defensemen in the free agent class in recently bought out Christian Ehrhoff should calm the nerves of frazzled Pens fans, at least somewhat.

Good work for new Pens GM Jim Rutherford and his new lieutenants, Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald. The team was expecting to lose two of their top four defenders in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to free agency, so adding a top-four defender to the mix in the early minutes of free agency was big.

What was interesting is that Rutherford was able to get Ehrhoff, who signed a 10-year deal with Buffalo in 2011 that saw the former Vancouver standout earn $18 million in the first two seasons, to commit to Pittsburgh for just one year.

For a team that’s wrestling with cap issues, limiting the term to one year at an exceptionally cap-friendly $4 million is something of a coup, especially in obtaining a player who was highly sought-after following the Sabres' decision to cut ties with Ehrhoff.

It's believed Detroit and Tampa were among the others interested in Ehrhoff's services.

The move does make the Pens somewhat overloaded with left-handed defensemen, although Paul Martin can play either side.

With Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, the Penguins may be lacking in toughness on the back end, but they will more than make up for that with an impressive group of puck-moving blueliners.

Ehrhoff has 50-point potential and joins a back end that has all kinds of offensive upside, as the Penguins try to remake themselves after five straight years of losing in the postseason to lower-seeded teams.

The process of redefining the team’s identity began in earnest at the draft in Philadelphia, where Rutherford dealt sniper James Neal to Nashville in exchange for grittier winger Patric Hornqvist and depth center Nick Spaling.