Heading from Florida to Pittsburgh in late February may not be a desired trip for many people.
For Gary Roberts, it’s ideal.
That’s because the opportunity to skate with a young, talented and exciting Penguins team was a very attractive one for the 40-year-old NHL veteran.
“I have never been traded at the deadline; this is the first time for me. There was a lot of talk and restless nights leading up to this. Even at 40, you are still anxious when it comes to days like this, but I really am excited and thrilled to be here and I am looking forward to the opportunity,” said Roberts, acquired from Florida on Tuesday for Noah Welch. “I know there was all this speculation out there of where I wanted to be, but this is really where I am excited to be. I am looking at the regular season and playoffs and we’ll go from there.
“You look at the talent here in Pittsburgh and having the opportunity and I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to Ray Shero and Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi and also with my family. I was actually really thrilled after speaking with them to have the opportunity here. It was my choice to waive my no-trade clause and come to Pittsburgh,” he continued. “The main thing Mark said was how much fun he was having playing with a young group of guys. They are basically late for buses and planes because you can’t get them off the ice. That’s a good sign when your younger players are the last guys to come off the ice and are out there trying to get better every day. As an older player, that’s great to see and fun to be a part of and it actually makes you younger. That’s one of the reasons why I came to Pittsburgh.”
A veteran of 19 NHL seasons and 1,137 games, Roberts has 875 points (424+451) in his career. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder looks forward to helping the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I knew that there were some very skilled guys here. Hopefully, I can bring a little bit of grit and get those guys the puck. Hopefully I can complement them in some way,” he said. “For me, the last few years, I know why I am still playing and that’s what I do on and off the ice to prepare to play. I am not a big yeller or screamer. I just come to the rink every day and play hard and be a good pro and a good teammate. These young guys are heading in the right direction. I see how hard they work every day on the ice playing against them. This organization is definitely heading in the right direction. Hopefully I can be a part of it.”
After playing against and watching the Penguins this season, Roberts believes the team has a chance to be a force in the postseason.
“I think for sure. One thing about making it a long way in the playoffs is you need a good part of the team to be younger, so it has the drive and energy to do it. It’s obvious what I see here is that drive and determination,” he said. “Hopefully, Georges Laraque, Joel Kwiatkowski and I can add a little something and make our playoff run as long as we can.
“As a young group, there’s no doubt that consistency is the biggest thing, no matter where you are. To be a Stanley Cup contender, you need to be consistent day in and day out. That’s what makes a championship team. Hopefully, as we move on here, this team can be more consistent and be there every night.”
For now, though, Roberts is focusing on fitting in with his new teammates, coaches and surroundings.
“No matter what situation you are in or how old or young you are, you want to feel your way. I am going to go through an adjustment period getting to know new teammates and getting a feel for a new system and the way coaches like to do things,” he said. “Basically, I am going to be like a sponge for a while and try to absorb anything I can and find my way and hopefully be a contributor in some way.”