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Penguins Bolster Roster With Signings

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s early July, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have already bolstered their roster.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Ray Shero announced defenseman Ryan Whitney and Rob Scuderi were re-signed, while defenseman Darryl Sydor, winger Petr Sykora and goaltender Dany Sabourin were plucked off the free-agent market.

Ryan Whitney

“I like where we are. That’s starting with the Ryan Whitney contract,” Shero said. “Signing your own players is the most-important thing for the franchise, I think, moving forward.”

In his second NHL stint – and first full season with the Penguins’ parent club – Whitney continued to progress. He ranked fifth in team scoring with 59 points (14+45) in 81 games. That far surpassed his totals in 2005-06 when he had 38 points (6+32) in 68 games.

Whitney, only 24, surged up the NHL rankings and finished fifth among all defensemen in scoring. He finished second on the Penguins in average time on ice at 23:56. He was fourth in power-play scoring with 33 points and tied Evgeni Malkin for second on the team in power-play assists with 24.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, who has 37 points in his last 44 games, earned a six-year contract.

“I know this is the place Ryan wants to be. He was very happy about it and we’re very happy to have him back,” Shero said. “Ryan is a great kid and it’s key that he wanted to stay here. He’s an improving hockey player. Is he a finished product yet? No, but that’s great news because he’ll still have some improvement and you don’t find 6-foot-4 guys with that kind of talent very often, so we’re fortunate to have him for a long period of time.

“I really believe we have a great young group here and this is a group I want to keep together, if we can.”

Darryl Sydor

Sydor, 35, had 21 points (5+16) in 74 games last season with Dallas. He provides a solid presence on the blue line as he had a plus-or-even rating in 52 of his 74 games and finished fourth among Dallas defensemen in ice time (20:08).

“He brings experience. He’s a real good leader and person. He has the ability to move the puck and I think he has good hands,” Shero said. “We have some pretty quality forwards up front, but I think with the addition of [Kris] Letang this year – we’re not going to rush him, but we hope he can play – and Sydor and guys like that to go along with [Sergei] Gonchar and Whitney and even Mark Eaton gives us the ability to move the puck better than last year. I think that’s going to improve our defense. He’s a guy that can play the second unit of the power play; he can kill penalties – he can give us some quality minutes. To me, he is guy who will help solidify our defensive unit. He had other opportunities, but came here, which is real good to hear.”

In addition, the 6-1, 211-pound Sydor brings leadership and experience. The two-time All-Star has a pair of Stanley Cup rings (1999 with Dallas and 2004 with Tampa Bay).

“He has played with a real good team in Dallas and Tampa. He’s been well-coached,” Shero said. “I think he will be a good fit for us. Michel Therrien took a good look at him and thought the fit would be good for our group, so I am comfortable with the fact that the coach is comfortable. Looking to upgrade, that should be a good fit for us.”

Petr Sykora

Offensively, Sykora brings a goal-scoring touch on either wing. He had a team-best 22 goals and 31 assists in 82 games with Edmonton last season.

“I really think a guy like Sykora has a great ability to shoot the puck. He has a great release and a great shot. He’s scored goals in this league before. I really think he’ll be a good fit in our top two lines,” Shero said. “I am not sure where he’ll play, but he’ll give us another element on the wing. He can play the point on the power play as well; he’s been effective in that role in the league. He’s a guy who has won as well, with New Jersey. He won the Stanley Cup there and went to the Finals with Anaheim and he was always a real good player in the playoffs. I think the fit should be good for us.”

Indeed. The 6-foot, 190-pounder won the Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2000 and went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003 with Anaheim. He has 565 points (247+318) in 764 career NHL games as well as 59 points (26+33) in 88 playoff games.

He hopes to continue the postseason success in Pittsburgh, where he will be reunited with Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin. All three played in Russia with Magnitogorsk during the 2004-05 season.

Rob Scuderi

“It was kind of interesting. When free agency started at noon [on Sunday], it must have been 12:01 p.m. when my phone rang and his agent was the first call I got saying that Petr’s first choice was to play in Pittsburgh. About 14 hours later, it happened,” Shero said. “When talking to Petr Sykora, I asked him about his familiarity with Pittsburgh and he goes back to his New Jersey days playing in the playoffs here and he just loved playing here. He thought the crowd was great; he loved the atmosphere – the whole thing and seeing the dynamics of the team and where it is this year and some of the kids. He’s a guy who played with Gonch and Malkin in Russia during the lockout, so he’s familiar with those guys and he’ll be able to play with good players. We hope it’ll be a good fit for both of us.

“With Sykora, he is a diligent defensive player. We’re looking for a certain fit. Certainly, the guys who can score goals have the ability to put up some points and they are not usually in the running for the Selke Trophy. He is a guy has played all three forward positions. He played a lot at center last year with Edmonton, but we believe he is a better winger. That’s where he played in New Jersey and that’s where he feels comfortable.”

Scuderi finished 2006-07 with 11 points (1+10) and 28 penalty minutes in 78 games. The 11 points are a career high as he had just six career points heading into the season. In addition, he was one of the team’s top penalty killers. He ranked third on the team in short-handed ice time.

Dany Sabourin

Meanwhile, Sabourin returns to the Penguins after he was claimed off waivers by the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 4, 2006. The 6-4, 200-pounder posted a 2-4-1 record and a 2.63 goals-against average in nine appearances backing up Roberto Luongo. He appeared in four games with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and had a 1-1-0 record and a 2.01 GAA.

He enjoyed immense success in the Penguins’ organization with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2005-06.  He compiled a 30-14-4 record, which set a club record and ranked second in the AHL.  Sabourin earned the Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Award as the top goaltender in the AHL and was selected to the AHL’s First All-Star Team. Also, he set Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team records for consecutive wins (nine), consecutive road wins (nine), and longest unbeaten streak (nine).

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