The Penguins have signed Finnish center Oula Palve to a one-year, two-way entry-level contract for the 2019-20 season.
The deal carries an average annual value of $925,000 at the NHL level, including up to $132,500 in performance bonuses and a $92,500 signing bonus. He will be exempt from waivers during the contract.
Palve, 27, has spent his entire professional career in Finland’s top men's league, Liiga, and second-tier Mestis. He's played in Liiga the past three full seasons with the clubs HPK and TPS. Last season, Palve recorded 16 goals and 35 assists in 53 games with TPS to lead his team in scoring.
Palve centered TPS' top line this season alongside 18-year-old Kaapo Kakko, the projected No. 2 pick in this summer's entry draft.
Earlier this season, Elliotte Friedmanreported that there were a few NHL teams scouting Palve at the Karjala Cup tournament, and that one scout compared Palve to Swedish center Par Lindholm, who played with the Maple Leafs and Jets this season.
In a Finnish article during the Karjala Cup, Palve expressed his confidence in his ability to play in the NHL, as well as for the Finnish men's national team.
Palve, 6-feet and 176 pounds, has been praised for his stickhandling abilities and vision on the ice, as well as his skating, both in terms of speed and in tight corners. His shot is described as "accurate and fairly hard." He's not a very physical player.
The Palve signing is a little interesting just because of the number of forwards already joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next season. Prospects Jan Drozg, Jordy Bellerive, Justin Almeida, Jake Lucchini, and Kasper Bjorkqvist are all expected to play their first full pro seasons next year, in addition to Chase Berger on an AHL deal, who looked strong in his first few professional games this spring.
Forwards Anthony Angello, Linus Olund, Sam Lafferty, Sam Miletic, and Ryan Haggerty remain under contract for next season, as well. Adam Johnson, Joseph Blandisi, and Joseph Cramarossa are restricted free agents, and Thomas Di Pauli will be an unrestricted free agent. It'll be interesting to see who fits where.
Regardless, the Palve signing is a low-risk signing; there's no real downside. Even if he manages to spend the entire year in the AHL, it's a good, free, find. Not every guy who gets a contract is expected to spend the majority of the year in the NHL. Wilkes-Barre needs bodies too.