The Penguins' Robert Bortuzzo, left, fights the Devils' Ryan Carter on the opening faceoff of a game in February.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo spent this past season doing more watching than playing with the Penguins. He watched so hard that he saw his future.
Bortuzzo, who Wednesday re-signed for $600,000 a season over two years, knows exactly what his game should look like.
"It's making hard plays, keeping the plays simple, moving the puck up to a heck of a group we have at forward," he said. "I'm going to bring the physical edge, that hard-to-play-against style."
At 6 feet 4, 215 pounds and with the ability to show a nasty streak, Bortuzzo might automatically be labeled a physical, stay-at-home defenseman. That's OK with him, but he figures he's got other dimensions.
"I guess 'defensive defenseman' would kind of be the classification, but moving pucks up through the neutral zone is so important," he said. "I consider myself a solid defenseman. You're supporting the rush now, too."
One place he wants to prove himself valuable is the area in front of his own net, a place where defensemen can help keep rebounds and opposing forwards in check.
"That's where that mean edge comes in," Bortuzzo said. "You want to protect that area. If things do get physical, you can control the game."
He won't be without competition for a regular role on one of the team's three defensive pairings, even if one or two defensemen are traded for salary-cap purposes.
Bortuzzo, 24, is coming off of his first full season in the NHL, and, even though the season was shortened to 48 games by a lockout, he played in only 15, getting two goals, two assists, 29 penalty minutes and earning a plus-minus rating of plus-3.
Since then, the Penguins have signed Rob Scuderi, who won a Stanley Cup with this club in 2009, another with Los Angeles and is considered one of the top shutdown defensemen in the NHL. The club also has a cluster of prospects who will be pushing to get to the NHL.
"I understand the depth. It's something I think is healthy. It's something I've been a part of for a long time now in Pittsburgh," said Bortuzzo, a third-round draft choice by the Penguins in 2007.
"I was one of those prospects at one time and even last year [was in that position] as a six/seven/eight position. I figure this is my time. Now it's time to make that permanent adjustment to a full-time NHL player."
Signing Bortuzzo, who was a restricted free agent, avoided a salary-arbitration hearing that had been scheduled next Thursday. It puts the Penguins nearly $2 million over the NHL salary cap. Teams don't have to be cap-compliant until just before the start of the regular season, so general manager Ray Shero could wait until he looks at his team in training camp and preseason games before making moves to get under the cap.
Bortuzzo's signing also would seem to bring the Penguins close to wrapping up their offseason to-do list. While a trade to get under the cap or other moves deemed prudent by Shero could happen at any time, there is one staff matter to address.
The Penguins need to hire a goaltending coach to replace Gilles Meloche, who has moved into another role with the club.
NOTES -- Dan McCoy, 19, a forward from Cheswick, was named to the 18-man roster for the 2014 U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team that will compete in Sochi, Russia, in March. McCoy, a Pitt student, is team captain of the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins. He is a Fox Chapel Area High School graduate. As a member of the U.S. national team last winter, he won a silver medal at the International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge World Championship in Goyang City, South Korea, and a first-place finish at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Calgary, Alberta.