Roberts, Recchi won't be leaving
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Gary Roberts could have waited another 10 days or so, and maybe ended up with more money.
Perhaps an extra year on his contract, too.
He might even have gotten a bit closer to his family in Toronto.
But, when Roberts assessed all the possibilities -- the deal, role and potential the Penguins offered, and what another situation might have been like -- his decision to return to the Penguins was easy.
"After a couple of months of looking at possible options ... I really didn't see anything more appealing," he said last night, a few hours after agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million.
The Penguins re-signed right winger Mark Recchi to a one-year deal that, with bonuses, will be worth up to $2 million at the same time the Roberts contract was finalized.
The timing was no coincidence, given that both players are represented by agent Rick Curran. He and general manager Ray Shero reached the agreements during a face-to-face meeting yesterday, and it wasn't until that session that Shero was convinced that Roberts and Recchi would be returning.
"I'd say [I thought] it was 50-50, I guess," he said. "I wasn't sure. It's good. They came back for the right reasons. ... We're really excited that they're both coming back. That fills two big holes for us."
Roberts, 41, made $2.25 million last season, when he put up 20 goals and 22 assists in 69 games with Florida and the Penguins. His totals include seven goals and six assists in 19 games after being acquired from the Panthers for defenseman Noah Welch Feb. 27.
Recchi, 39, was paid $2.28 million in 2006-07. He was the Penguins' No. 3 scorer, with 24 goals and 44 assists in 82 games.
"I really believe they were a huge part of our team last year, on and off the ice," Shero said. "And I really think that with a 19-year-old captain [Sidney Crosby], it's very important to have that leadership group still around."
Although Ottawa, which made a futile bid to acquire Roberts before he was traded to the Penguins, was expected to pursue him if he went on the open market, Roberts said that joining the Senators to be closer to his daughter who attends school in Toronto wouldn't really have been that much more attractive, on a personal level.
"That only place that really would have worked in that regard was Toronto," he said. "And I'd been there and done that."
Roberts' intangibles are an important part of his contribution, but the Penguins also will count on him for on-ice contributions. He remains a ferocious forechecker and hitter and has a decent touch around the net.
Asked if he anticipates that his role will remain essentially unchanged next season, Roberts said, "I sure hope so," and that "I want to continue to be counted on to produce."
It remains to be seen how aggressive the Penguins will be when free agency begins July 1, but the return of Recchi and Roberts means they won't be as active as they otherwise might have been.
"This really solidifies our group up front," Shero said. "Without those two players, you're really looking at chasing free agents or trades. So from that standpoint, we're in good shape."
While it's clear that the Penguins could use a winger or two with a scoring touch to take full advantage of the playmaking abilities of centers like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Roberts suggested that the team doesn't really need major changes up front.
"I really feel as though we had the right group of forwards in Pittsburgh," he said.
He apparently thinks the other parts of their lineup don't require significant overhauls, either.
"I have an opportunity to play with a team that has a chance to win the Cup," he said. "I think we're really close.
"When you look at how well we did against Ottawa [during Round 1 of the playoffs] compared to some of the other teams ... We have a really close team, and a team that might just need experience more than it needs to add any players."
It held onto a couple of established ones yesterday, at least for another year. And even though Roberts might have preferred a multi-year contract, he can live with getting a single season.
"I'm good with that," he said. "If I can stay healthy and have a good year, maybe I'll have an opportunity to come back to Pittsburgh for another year."
First Published June 23, 2007 12:00 am