Dustin Penner could have dipped his toes in free-agent waters and likely secured a long-term deal. But the burly, affable winger wanted to return to the Stanley Cup champions.
Penner signed a one-year extension with the Los Angeles Kings worth a reported $3.25 million Sunday, the opening day of free agency. That means Los Angeles can return everyone from its regular lineup after the earlier re-signings of Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser (winger Dwight King is a restricted free agent).
Penner, who took about a $1 million pay cut from what he made last season and will again be in a contract year, said he never got to free agency and worked it out with general manager Dean Lombardi beforehand. He cited his infamous departure from the Anaheim Ducks after he won the Cup with them in 2007 and then signed an offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers.
Penner acknowledged, "I knew there was probably other teams that would have offered me more than a year," but reiterated he wanted to return to the same group. He made a reference to the movie "The Matrix" to describe his outlook.
"I had taken the blue pill last time," he said. "This time, I wanted to take the red pill … I wanted to see what it was like to be back on a team that I won a championship with. It's a great opportunity for myself, personally, to have the year I've wanted to have as a King. Last year wasn't anywhere near people's expectations, and especially my own. I look forward to having that opportunity to redeem myself further."
Penner, who will turn 30 in September, had a disappointing regular season with seven goals and 17 points in 65 games. He also went through a divorce and roomed with Stoll at one point. On the ice, Penner rediscovered his form as an impact power forward in the postseason, collecting three goals and 11 points in 20 playoffs games.
Penner moved to the second line for the Kings with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the second round, and the trio meshed well during the march to the Cup. Penner scored the series-clinching goal in the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes to put the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993.
Lombardi last month mentioned that Penner will need to have a procedure done on his wrist this offseason, and Penner indicated it wasn't serious.
"It hasn't affected my golf game much," he said. "It's not something that effects hockey, but something I'll have to get done in the near future."
Penner's re-signing was noticed by at least one teammate.
"Now that @Dustinpenner25 has signed on for one more year I stocked the team snack room," Kings captain Dustin Brown posted on his Twitter account, along with a picture of Kraft "Easy Cheese" containers.