NHL: Penguins bring back popular defenseman Scuderi
PITTSBURGH — In the end, familiarity was the deciding factor for Rob Scuderi. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, too.
Less than an hour into NHL free agency, the Penguins were reunited with an old friend.
Four years removed from signing with the Los Angeles Kings just weeks after helping the Penguins to their third Stanley Cup in 2009, Scuderi signed a four-year, $13.5 million contract with Pittsburgh on Friday.
“When moving your family, the transition can be kind of odd and awkward,” the 34-year-old defenseman said. “I thought going to Pittsburgh, the familiarity with the area would make for an easier transition.
“And most important, the team is in a win-now mode.”
Later Friday, the Penguins announced the re-signing of another player from the 2009 Cup-winning team, forward Craig Adams. Adams, who has been with Pittsburgh since being claimed off waivers in early 2009, signed a two-year extension with an average annual value of $700,000.
Scuderi, who also won the 2012 Cup with Los Angeles, missed only nine games over his four seasons with the Kings. The Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup final during Scuderi’s final two seasons with the Penguins; since then they have won three playoff series in four years. They were swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals last month.
Scuderi’s teams are 13-5 in playoff series with two Stanley Cups, three appearances in the final and four conference finals over the past seven years.
“Let’s face it, I’m a plug,” Scuderi said of his simple game. “I play good defense, I’m going to move the puck tape-to-tape when I can, and when I don’t have an opportunity to, I’m going to put the puck in the safest areas. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, everyone knows that. But it can be effective.
“One of the reasons I felt comfortable coming back is that the Penguins said that was what they were looking for. I want to make sure I’m a good fit for what they need and that together we can do some good things.”
Scuderi has seven goals and 79 assists in 585 career NHL games, including one goal and 11 assists in 48 games last season. He had a career bests in points (16) and plus-minus (+23) with the Penguins in 2008-09 just before the Penguins let him walk in free agency.
“There are some things that in my job you wish for a do-over on, and this is one of them,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said.
“At the time there wasn’t a chance we could financially, and I said it at the time I was very happy for him and (wife) Courtney to have that opportunity money-wise. He had never made it in his career. It’s a great story, and that happens in the salary-cap world — guys have to leave.”
A 1998 fifth-round pick of Pittsburgh’s, the Syosset, N.Y., native became a regular with the Penguins following the 2004-05 lockout. He was a reliable presence on the ice and popular in the dressing room, but with the Penguins up against the salary cap he was let go in July 2009, signing a four-year, $13.6 million deal with Los Angeles.
His extended family remains in New York on Long Island, and that’s where his wife’s family also resides. Scuderi said that was no small factor in his decision to relocate back east. Other than the Kings, Scuderi said he was only willing to consider signing with Eastern Conference teams.
“To be able to play (the three New York City area-based) teams consistently and with Pittsburgh being a seven-hour drive or a one-hour flight as compared to a cross-country flight is something that I missed over the last few years. I missed having them be part of our lives and their grandkids’ lives.”
Scuderi has appeared in 515 of a possible 540 regular-season games since the 2006-07 season, including the past 264 consecutive regular-season contests. He hasn’t missed a game since Dec. 7, 2009, playing in every game of the past three seasons.
Adams has been just as durable in recent years, missing only two games the past four seasons for Pittsburgh while playing a versatile, fourth-line role. Adams, 36, can play center or wing and is one of the Penguins’ top penalty killers. He has long been a favorite of coach Dan Bylsma’s.
“He’s meant a lot to our team,” Shero said. “He plays a big part of our penalty kill and grit. On the fourth line he plays center and wing.”
Adams had three goals and six assists this past season and has totaled 49 goals and 93 assists in 799 games over a 12-year career.