TRURO – Zach Sill will be a Penguin for at least one more year.
The Birch Hill native signed a one-year, two-way deal on Thursday morning, keeping him in the Penguins organization for his sixth season.
The deal is worth $550,000 in the National Hockey League.
“It feels good,” he said. “It was a good choice by me, a comfortable choice. I know everybody there and it’s a real good club.”
Sill spent four seasons with the Penguins American Hockey League affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, before making his NHL debut last season. In 20 big league games, Sill was held scoreless, but played a key energy role on an injury-depleted roster.
Sill also helped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins into the Eastern Conference finals of the AHL last season, where they were defeated by the St. John's IceCaps in six games. Facing elimination in Game 5, Sill scored the winner with 16 seconds on the clock.
An unrestricted free agent at season's end, Sill was up for negotiation with any team in the league as of 1 p.m. on July 1. For a while after the window opened, Sill was attached to his phone watching for updates.
"For the first hour or so I was pretty into it," he said. "But after a while I started to go a little stir crazy, so I went out and helped my brother with the truck for a while."
With one of the deeper lineups in the league, Sill knew he might have to look elsewhere for a steady job. While there were other opportunities, there were no one-way deals on the table. Without the guarantee of a permanent NHL job, it was an easy choice to return to the Penguins.
"I haven't made it yet," he said. "I've had a chance, and they're the ones who gave me that chance. This is the team I want to make it with."
It was an up and down year for the 26-year-old winger. The rollercoaster began when he was called up to the show, and took a steep dive after Sill was sent back to the minors. In just his second game back in the AHL, Sill was cut on the arm by an opponent's skate. The cut would require surgery, forcing him out of action until season's end.
Heading into a new year, personnel changes with the Penguins may work in Sill's favour. Gone are last year's fourth-line residents Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale. The departures could open a spot for the rugged former Bearcat.
"There will be a few guys competing for the last of those 12 or 13 spots," he said. "I think I'll be right there in the mix, and I hope to be playing on opening night in October."
Sill joined the organization as an undrafted free agent in 2009 after his junior career ended with the Moncton Wildcats. In 277 AHL regular season games, Sill has 33 goals, 40 assists and is a plus-22.
Though it's been a long journey to the NHL, Sill's loyalty to the organization that took a chance on an undrafted Nova Scotia kid has never been in question.
"I still have faith that they have some faith in me."