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Scuderi returning to Penguins on four-year contract

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- For Pittsburgh Penguins fans who fret over how recent multiyear signings have gotten their team perilously close to the NHL salary cap in future seasons, general manager Ray Shero has a message for you: don't.

After all, Shero says he's not worried.

On a day when the Penguins announced the signing of defenseman Rob Scuderi to a four-year, $13.5 million contract and the re-signing of veteran forward Craig Adams to a two-year, $1.4 million deal, Shero brushed off concerns that Pittsburgh has little maneuverability under the cap.

"I never look at it that way, honestly," Shero said of approaching the salary caps of 2014-15 and beyond. "All the time I hear it brought up, but I never look at it that way.

"We have a 23- or 22-man roster, and there's decisions we have to make all the time in terms of the cap and we do know it will be $64.3 (million), at least, now and maybe it's going to go up. And if it does, we'll make certain adjustments."

Shero won't have to worry about adding any more defensemen to his roster after bringing back Scuderi, who was affectionately known as "The Piece" in Pittsburgh for his unheralded role on the team that would win the 2009 Stanley Cup.

Scuderi got a contract very similar to the one he signed with the Los Angeles Kings almost four years ago to the day. Scuderi added the 2012 Stanley Cup with the Kings to the one he won in Pittsburgh three years prior.

Shero interrupted the first question at a press conference called hours after the Scuderi signing to playfully ask himself, "'Ray, was it a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go?'

“Yes, it was a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go,” Shero said. “That was a mistake on my part, and to have a chance to have a do-over and bring Rob back here, that's one of the things we really wanted to do when he became available on the free-agent market."

Scuderi, a 6-foot-1, 216-pound, 34-year-old, appeared in all 48 regular-season games with Los Angeles in 2012-13, with one goal and 11 assists. He led the team in blocked shots (66) and shorthanded minutes (3:13) while averaging 21:47 minutes per game.

During the Kings' run to the Cup he had a plus-9 rating with 34 blocked shots in 20 postseason games. Scuderi spent 11 years as property of the Penguins, a 1998 fifth-round pick of the team who made his NHL debut in 2004 and established himself as a regular by the start of the 2006-07 season.

"What he's brought to us in past and what he continued to do in L.A. has earned respect in the League," Shero said. "It's that defensive game, the ability to play a simple game with maturity. The guy's a winner -- two Cups, a national championship at Boston College. He's another guy ... who makes other players better."

Shero's deal with Adams was finalized late Friday after the team and his agent had been in contact for much of the recent weeks. Adams' cap value increases slightly from the $675,000 he had on his previous two-year contract that expired this week.

Adams has been a regular with Pittsburgh since being claimed off waivers in 2009, a part of the Stanley Cup-winning team later that summer who has played in all but two of the Penguins' regular-season games since. Adams has been a fixture on Pittsburgh's fourth line and top penalty-killing unit.

"This has been a two-week process with Craig," Shero said about an hour-and-a-half before the team announced the signing. "We have a relationship with him, and it's just a matter of seeing where the dust settles.

"It's given him three days in free agency to look around -- he deserves that. ... Craig is still a guy we have a spot for."

The Penguins also announced the signings of forwards Andrew Ebbett (two years), Chris Conner (one year), Bobby Farnham (one year) and Nick Drazenovic (one year) each to a two-way contract. Of that group, Drazenovic, Conner and Ebbett played sparingly in the NHL this past season. Conner was formerly part of the Penguins organization.

Counting Scuderi and Adams, the Penguins over the past week have given 13 years of contracts totaling $40.45 million to players who were at least 34 years old. Forwards Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz also were given a new contract.

Franchise stalwarts Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang were given contract extensions that will carry well into their 30s. Not to worry, Shero says, just the cost of doing business.

"Unless you're willing to give your players term or other players term, you're not going to get them," Shero said. "So if I want to offer a guy a two-year contract, he's going to go to the next team for a four-year contract.

"You always have some reservations on a 34-year-old or 35, 36, a 32-year-old sometimes, but you're going to have to do it. We know Rob Scuderi, and we knew if I'm going to be worried about what Rob Scuderi will be like at 38, I'm not going to get him. That's just the realty now."

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