Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi makes a game-saving stop late in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
By Rob Rossi
Published: Friday, July 5, 2013, 1:30 p.m.
Rob Scuderi holds a special place in Penguins history.
That is no longer just because he made arguably the second-best save of the club's 2009 Stanley Cup run.
Scuderi also inspired arguably the best quote of general manager Ray Shero's seven-year tenure.
“I'll ask the next question: ‘Ray, was it a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go?' ” Shero said Friday from Consol Energy Center.
“Yes, it was a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go on my part. To have a chance at a do-over and bring Rob back was something I wanted to try and do.”
Scuderi agreed to a four-year contract worth $13.5 million on Friday, returning to the Penguins after spending the past four seasons with Los Angeles. He received a limited-movement clause, just like fellow defenseman Kris Letang and wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis did on their new contracts.
A call from Shero on Wednesday — the start of a two-day window for teams to speak with impending free agents — prompted Scuderi to think about a return to his NHL roots.
If leaving Los Angeles, he wanted to be closer to home (Long Island). He also wanted the right fit.
“I wanted to make sure they remembered who I was, how I played and if they expected anything else,” Scuderi said of the Penguins.
Scuderi left the Penguins in July 2009 after a reputation-making playoff run that priced him out of Shero's long-term plans. He signed with Los Angeles as a free agent, increasing his average annual salary by about $2.69 million.
He will count $3.375 against the Penguins' salary cap. The cap is set at $64.3 million next season but projected to increase in following years. Shero has committed to 20 players at about $63.62 million for the 2013-14 season, not counting new contracts for restricted free agents.
NHL clubs are allowed to go over the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, although they must be cap-compliant when rosters are set to start the regular season.
Shero has not ruled out trades, but he did not provide specifics.
Defensemen Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland are in the final years of their contracts. Orpik can block a trade to eight teams because of a clause in his deal.
Scuderi said he had blocked out a return to the Penguins because he figured there was no interest. However, of all the players with whom Shero had let go because of cap considerations, nobody created a void like Scuderi.
The search for a replacement was costly.
Zbynek Michalek was given a five-year contract worth $20 million in July 2011. He was traded last summer. Douglas Murray cost Shero two second-round draft choices in March, and he hit the open market along with other free agents at noon Friday.
Scuderi became a part of Penguins lore during Game 6 of the 2009 Cup Final. With the Penguins ahead by a goal and needing a win to extend the series, Scuderi famously covered a loose puck in the crease during the final seconds of that victory at Mellon Arena.
Scuderi was referred to as “The Piece” to the Penguins' puzzle by teammates after that game, and the moniker stuck when Scuderi joined the Kings as a free agent.
He won the Cup again (2012) and helped bring along star defenseman Drew Doughty. Scuderi became a left defenseman in Los Angeles, and that is where he likely will play for the Penguins.
Coaches have long sought a stay-at-home presence to pair with Letang, who has agreed to an eight-year contract that will count $7.25 million annually against the cap after next season.
Scuderi, a third-pairing defenseman during his previous run (2003-09) with the Penguins, said he would love to play with Letang, a first-time finalist for the Norris Trophy last season.
Scuderi also said he gladly would accept a mentorship role for Penguins defensive prospects such as Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington.
The Penguins, deepest at defense among its prospects, favor easing the transition of those players.
“As a young defenseman in Pittsburgh, I watched guys like Sergei Gonchar and learned how to be a professional,” Scuderi said. “If a younger defenseman can pick that stuff up, that's great.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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