When Matt Niskanen arrived in Pittsburgh along with James Neal, the consensus was that he was a throw-in for Alex Goligoski who would amount to little.

In a little over a year, Niskanen has done a fantastic job proving his detractors wrong and solidifying himself as one of the more consistent blueliners on the Penguins’ roster.

As a restricted free agent this summer, there was little concern that Niskanen would be lost for nothing, but there was considerable talk that his demands might be a bit pricey for the superstar-laden Penguins.

Today, Niskanen once again proved the naysayers wrong, inking a two-year contract worth $4.6 million ($2.3 annual cap hit) to remain with the team that helped him get his career back on track.

With the departure of Zbynek Michalek, Niskanen stands to get the opportunity to increase his icetime, possibly finding a permanent home on the second pairing.

At the very worst, the reliable and versitaile defender will skate on the third pairing, possible mentoring a youngster, such as Simon Despres, Brian Strait, or Robert Bortuzzo.

His role likely will be determined by the Penguins’ ability (or lack thereof) to sign a free agent defenseman, such as Ryan Suter and/or trade Paul Martin, whom the team remains publicly committed to…for now.

Regardless of his role, Niskanen is the type of success story that makes him easy to cheer for. The fact that he’ll remain in Pittsburgh at a manageable cap hit for the next two seasons is good news for the Penguins.

Theissen Stays

The arrival of veteran starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun, coupled with Marc-Andre Fleury’s long-term contract cemented the status for backup goalie Brent Johnson last month.

It also signaled that minor league goalie prospect Brad Theissen could search for a team offering an easier track to the NHL.

Apparently Theissen is comfortable with his role within the Penguins organization, as he signed a one year, two-way contract worth $525,000 in the NHL.

While it’s unlikely he’ll see much, if any time in Pittsburgh, he is a valuable piece to the puzzle in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with the AHL Penguins.