After the Penguins played their last game before the All-Star break and bye week on Jan. 21 in Philadelphia, the next day Marcus Pettersson and his girlfriend Beatrice got into the car and drove to Washington, D.C.
There, the Swedish natives explored everything the city has to offer, stopping at historical sites like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and war memorials.
They drove back to Pittsburgh on Sunday, and after being back for a couple of days, celebrated some exciting news on Tuesday when Pettersson and the Penguins agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension with an average annual value of $4,025,175.
"I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity," Pettersson said over the phone this afternoon. "I said that before as soon as I got to Pittsburgh. This is a place you want to be. With the history they have and the winning mentality and the core group still being here, I felt like was by far the best option and I haven't really thought about anything else but being here for a long time. I'm glad it worked out."
It is true - when the Penguins first acquired Marcus Pettersson from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Daniel Sprong on Dec. 3, 2018, the young defenseman said he viewed the trade as a great opportunity for him.
And it's a credit to him that he seized that opportunity, becoming a big part of the Penguins blue line and earning the deal he was given.
"In just over a year, Marcus has had a significant impact on our defensive group," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He is young, reliable and smart, which is important in today's game. Marcus is part of our young core and it was important to get him signed long-term."
That had always been the plan, despite not being able to get that long-term deal done this summer due to salary cap restrictions. After his entry-level contract expired following the 2018-19 season, Pettersson and the Penguins ended up agreeing to a one-year deal with an average annual value of $874,125 the day before training camp began.
"I wanted to do something that was good for the team and I wanted to play as well," Pettersson said. "My agent and I put a lot of trust in the Penguins, and rightfully so. They were pretty clear from the beginning that they believed in me and I want to place that same trust in them. It worked out well.
"We came to a handshake agreement and Jim said that as soon as we can, we can start looking over the next deal and then work it from there. That put a lot of encouraging thoughts in my head. I just wanted to do the best I could all year this year and prove that they still want me for the long-term."
That's exactly what Pettersson has done this season.
It can be easy to forget how young he is, as the 23-year-old has been a consistent, steady presence on the Penguins' blue line through all of the injuries and is the only defenseman to have skated in every game. He has mostly skated on the second pairing and is seeing more time in all situations.
"With this year being so different with all the injuries that we've had, that's allowed me opportunities to play in big moments and play against some of the top lines from other teams," Pettersson said. "It's something where I for sure want to keep growing in that aspect, to show that I can be reliable both ways on the ice. I feel like that's the kind of defenseman I want to be."
Pettersson is grateful to the Penguins for being confident in his abilities from the very beginning and helping him get to his point. And he's looking forward to only getting better over the next five years.
"I feel like the strength of my game is reading the game and understanding the game well and playing defense-first and then jumping up in the rush as much as I can," the 6-foot-3, 177-pound blueliner said before adding, "I for sure still want to be stronger and put more weight on. That's always been something I want to do. And from a playing standpoint, I just continue to grow as a player and as a person."