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Jan Rutta leaves Lightning, signs with Penguins

The defenseman receives a three-year deal from Pittsburgh.
Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta had been invaluable in pairing with Victor Hedman.
Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta had been invaluable in pairing with Victor Hedman. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jul. 13|Updated Jul. 13

TAMPA — The Lightning lost their second defenseman this offseason, as unrestricted free agent Jan Rutta signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract with the Penguins.

He will make an annual average value of $2.75 million a year, more than double what he made last season, in a deal that will run through the 2024-25 season.

Rutta, who will turn 32 this month, is coming off arguably the best season of his five-year NHL career, setting career highs in games played (76), assists (15) and plus-minus (plus-25) while serving as a responsible partner with top two-way defenseman Victor Hedman.

Related: Lightning sign Sergachev, Cirelli, Cernak to 8-year extensions

While Rutta’s role has primarily been to be a stay-at-home defenseman to allow Hedman to jump up in the Lightning offense, he elevated his offensive game this season, recording a career-high 86 shots on goal. He scored a huge goal in the Stanley Cup final, netting the Lightning’s first goal in their Game 5 win that kept the series alive against Colorado.

Rutta played in 40 postseason games the past two seasons, averaging 13:43 of ice time and a plus-8 plus-minus.

His cap hit for last season was just $1.3 million, so he was up for a significant raise and a multi-year deal.

Rutta’s loss means that the Lightning will need to find a new full-time right-side partner for Hedman. Erik Cernak paired with Hedman into the postseason, and both Mikhail Sergachev and Cal Foote also saw some time skating with Hedman. The Lightning also signed free agent Ian Cole on Wednesday to add to the defenseman corps after the team traded Ryan McDonagh to Nashville to clear salary-cap space.

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