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Sheahan hopes to revive career with Pens

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have become the UPMC of the NHL - that is the rehabilitation center for players' careers.

Just look at some of the players that the team has acquired over the past three years that have rejuvenated their careers in a black and gold uniform. 

Phil Kessel was surrounded by bad press in Toronto, but came to Pittsburgh to become a two-time Stanley Cup champion.

Justin Schultz was a highly-touted free agent signing by Edmonton, but was a disappointment after three-plus seasons with the Oilers. He's transformed into one of Pittsburgh's best defensemen and a key contributor on their top power-play unit.

Carl Hagelin had a very successful run with the New York Rangers organization. But only notched four goals and 12 points in 43 games with Anaheim after a trade, and had lost his confidence. He became an integral part of Pittsburgh's speed game and penalty kill unit during the past three seasons.

Ian Cole went from the odd-man out in St. Louis and regular scratch to a consistent bluelienr in the Pens' top-6, and a big reason they were able win the Cup in 2017 without stalwart Kris Letang.

Center Riley Sheahan is hoping to add his name to the list of resurrections.

"To be able to turn guys' careers around like that gives you some confidence going in," said Sheahan, who was acquired by the Pens on Saturday night. "Sometimes things just don't work out in your previous organization. To be able to come to Pittsburgh and know they can revive guys like that gives you confidence."

Sheahan, 25, needed a change.

After playing the first four-plus seasons of his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, the team that drafted him 21st overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, both sides were ready to part ways.

"I think a change will help," he said. "Leaving behind a great organization and good teammates, but I'm definitely excited for a change of scenery and to get started with such an awesome organization."

Sheahan endured one of the most difficult years of his life during the 2016-17 season. Despite consistently putting up double digits in goals previously in his career, he went without a goal in the first 79 games of the regular-season before netting a pair of goals in the final game at Detroit's historic Joe Louis Arena.

But those struggles have only made him a stronger player.

"It was tough knowing that I've performed at this level and contributed on the scoresheet the past few years of my career," Sheahan said. "Not doing the same thing last year was a struggle. I was trying to contribute in different ways. Trying to play smart. Play a sound defensive game. It was tough.

"I've experienced the worst, I just have to build from there."

Sheahan was well aware of the trade rumors surrounding his name. And after the Red Wings signed Andreas Athanasiou to a multi-year contract, Sheahan knew his days in Detroit were running out.

"I had a feeling, even around training camp, the rumors were floating around," Sheahan said. "It wasn't a total surprise. It's been a crazy last day, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Sheahan, who isn't concerned about his ability to keep up with the Pens' high-flying system, has a strong welcoming committee in Pittsburgh. He played collegiate hockey at Notre Dame with Bryan Rust and Cole. He trained in the summer in Plymouth, Michigan with Matt Hunwick. And even Sidney Crosby already texted him to welcome him to his new club.

Having familiar faces around should help ease his transition.

"It's nice to be reunited with them," he said. "It's nice to be on a team where I know some guys going in. 'Sid' reached out to me as well saying if I need anything just reach out to him. It's nice connecting with some guys and breaking the ice a bit, knowing that a change of scenery will be good from a teammate standpoint."

Sheahan is also excited to work with the Penguins coaching staff, in particular defensive coach Sergei Gonchar.

"The last two years they've wont the Cup," Sheahan said. "They're doing something right."

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