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Rust thrilled to be rewarded with new contract

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After the Penguins announced on Tuesday that they had re-signed Bryan Rust to a four-year contract, the congratulatory texts started popping up on his phone.

"Family and friends, everyone's excited," he said. "I've been getting texts saying 'congrats, you've worked so hard for this and you deserve it,' so it's nice to get that recognition from all those people. And to know that they're kind of following me and my success."

Rust has also been receiving texts of the chirping nature from his teammates.

"Yeah, Sid's actually reached out to me and asked where we're going for dinner," Rust laughed of the Penguins captain. "I told him it will be a surprise."

It's been a special day for the 26-year-old forward, who really has worked extremely hard to get to this point. When the Penguins first drafted Rust in the fourth round - 80th overall - in 2010, they viewed him as a marathon prospect that would need time to grow and develop into an NHL player.

He spent four years at Notre Dame before turning professional, splitting his first two seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before getting recalled to Pittsburgh for good on Jan. 9, 2016.

Rust went on to become a key contributor to Pittsburgh's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships that summer and the one after. This summer, he's celebrating the signing of a deal that runs through the 2021-22 season with an average annual value of $3.5 million.

"It feels really special," Rust said. "It shows that all my hard work has started to show a little bit of dividends and I'm getting rewarded for it. Not trying to sell those Stanley Cups short or any of the success our team has had, but for me individually, this is a mark of being able to become an established player in this league and hopefully to just continue to grow that."

Rust has certainly established a reputation for being a clutch postseason performer in this league, scoring 10 goals in 18 career playoff elimination contests.

He's also established a reputation for being a versatile player that the coaching staff can trust and utilize in so many situations, which is something Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has talked about often over the last couple of seasons.

"That is very important to me," Rust said. "To be able to give the coaches that flexibility to try and match my game with other guys' games, it doesn't matter if it's skill guys or the grinders, I think I can try and adapt my game well to everyone.

"It doesn't really matter where they put me in the lineup. I guess I've shown that doesn't really matter to me and if I play right, left, first line or fourth line, I'll just try and play my same game."

For Rust, one of his goals this year is simply to stay healthy after dealing with injuries each of the last two seasons. Going hand in hand with that, Rust would also like to work more on his scoring touch and finishing ability, which he hopes will come with being in the lineup consistently.

Rust has 79 points (33G-46A) in 181 career regular-season games with the Penguins, improving his offensive totals in each of his three seasons.

"I think it's definitely something that I had my eyes on, being able to stay healthy for a full season and be able to produce a little bit more and have a full season under my belt and try not to have any injuries to maybe set that back," he said.

But overall, Rust has, as he put it, crafted a strong enough resume for himself that made the Penguins want to have him for an extended period of time - "and I do have a lot of pride in that," he said. Now, he's looking forward to rounding out that resume with the organization he loves.

"I think the (Penguins') overall style of game just fits into the type of player I am," he said. "A north-south, speed game, try and play in transition and play as aggressive as possible. I think it just kind of fits into my style and I've just been able to kind of mesh well with the guys on the team and with the coaching staff and they've trusted me as time has gone on. I've been trying to make the most of my opportunities."

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