Scuderi, Penguins agree to four-year deal

Bringing back Rob Scuderi made perfect sense for the Penguins in a number of ways.

On the ice.

In the dressing room.

Almost everywhere, it seemed, except on the salary-cap spreadsheet.

No one disputed that the Penguins could use a reliable defensive defenseman. The issue was whether they could afford to give a 34-year-old a four-year contract with an annual cap hit of $3,375,000 to fill that role.

General manager Ray Shero and his staff, however, decided Scuderi was worth that investment -- and whatever financial repercussions came with it -- and Friday lured Scuderi back to the team he had left as a free agent four summers ago.

"It was a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go," Shero said. "To have a chance to have the do-over to bring Rob back is one thing I really wanted to do."

And so he did, although it's going to force Shero to make at least one more personnel change before the start of next season.

Especially after the Penguins and fourth-line forward Craig Adams subsequently worked out a two-year deal with a salary-cap hit of $700,000.

The Penguins have roughly $676,000 of salary-cap space available. Trouble is, they have extended about $1.9 million in qualifying offers to three additional players -- defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and forwards Harry Zolnierczyk and Dustin Jeffrey -- and that means they're guaranteed to exceed the cap ceiling of $64.3 million for the 2013-14.

That isn't a pressing concern, because NHL regulations allow clubs to exceed the cap ceiling by up to 10 percent in the offseason, but Shero will have to pare his major league roster before the games start.

"We have three months to get cap-compliant," he said.

"We have certain decisions to make."

He does not, however, have a deadline, other than the one imposed by the league, for doing so.

"We're not going to go too fast here, unless something presents itself that makes sense," Shero said.

It's not clear whether Adams' signing is the final one the Penguins will make, because Shero suggested he still was poking around the talent available on the free-agency list, but any deal they give out in coming days likely would involve a modest salary and a short-term commitment.

Certainly, Shero won't be handing out any contracts similar to the one Scuderi received.

Then again, no free agent still on the market would be counted on to make the contribution the Penguins will expect from Scuderi.

While his precise role isn't settled, he's a candidate to be paired with Kris Letang, providing the responsible defense that would allow Letang to maximize his offensive involvement.

"If that's their plan, that's fine," Scuderi said. "You know what you're gong to get [with me].

"I'm going to stay back. I don't take a lot of risks. I'll be there to clean up a mess if I have to or make a safe play if I have to.

"I think the Penguins know exactly what they're going to get."

They do. And they like it.

"As a defenseman, Rob Scuderi makes other people better," Shero said.

If the Penguins didn't see their issue with the cap ceiling coming until the past few days, it's probably because they didn't see any possibility of Scuderi returning here until then.

"The feeling was, he was probably going to go back to Los Angeles," Shero said.

The Penguins decided to express their interest to his agent Wednesday, however, and Scuderi reciprocated, in part because of his desire to be closer to family on Long Island.

"I wasn't going to leave Los Angeles to play for another team in the Western Conference," he said. "It wasn't a very long list [of potential employers].

"Pittsburgh wasn't even on it because I didn't think they would offer.

"When it came down to it and they offered, I was very intrigued by the possibility."

Being closer to family was a major factor for Scuderi. So was his familiarity with the city and organization.

Oh, and one other thing convinced him to return.

"Certainly, most importantly," he said. "The team is in a win-now mode."

At any cost, apparently.

mobilehome - breaking - penguins or Twitter @MolinariPG First Published July 5, 2013 5:00 PM


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