What was old became new again for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday afternoon, when 34-year-old defenseman Rob Scuderi formalized a four-year contract with the team that drafted him.
“It was a mistake to let Scuderi go on my part,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero told assembled media at Consol Energy Center. “To have a chance at a do-over and bring Rob back…that’s a good day for us.”
Scuderi, who left the Penguins in 2009 to sign a free-agent deal with Los Angeles, had similar nice things to say about the Penguins organization and the city of Pittsburgh. The Long Island native told TSN that familiarity played a large role in his decision to move back to the team he helped win the Stanley Cup four years ago.
“The management, the coaching, the area, it just helps me make a smooth transition,” Scuderi said. “At this stage of my career, I’d like to be a little closer to my home and my parents and in-laws. It came down to a family decision.”
The Penguins know what they will be getting from the two-time Cup champ: solid stay-at-home play and someone who can handle all areas of the defensive zone, most notably the corners and in front of the net. This isn’t a nod to nostalgia, although one wonders how effective Scuderi will be at age 38, just as it’s questionable how well Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis will be skating at the end of their new contract extensions.
Scuderi should provide a lot of what Douglas Murray did after he was acquired in February, although with more speed and mobility. He’ll be more than acceptable on the penalty kill, and figures to provide a needed measure of responsibility to the Penguins’ back line.
Adding Scuderi will cost the Penguins $3.375 million per year, leaving them less than a million dollars under the 2013-14 salary cap. According to the NHL collective bargaining agreement, a team can get as much as $10 million over the cap during the offseason, as long as it returns to compliance by opening night.
Scuderi is a good fit on the ice and in the Penguins’ pocketbook, but he also makes what was already the NHL’s oldest team even more experienced. Even if Mark Eaton doesn’t return, Pittsburgh will have eight players at age 30 or older, quite the contrast to when the young Pens first became title contenders.
Shero expressed continued interest in unrestricted free agent forward Craig Adams, 36, while neglecting to mention 34-year-old winger Matt Cooke, who is also available on the open market. Later in the day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the Penguins signed Adams to a two-year deal worth $700,000 annually.
With Adams returing, the Penguins will still be a little slower and less explosive next season. Although stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are all in their mid-20s, the Pittsburgh supporting cast is more advanced in years.
With age comes predictability, but only for so long.