On Friday Penguins general manager Ray Shero candidly opened up about a mistake he made four years ago. He ended up getting a second chance to rectify with the signing of defenseman Rob Scuderi
to a four-year, $13.5-million deal on the first day of free agency Friday.
“Was it a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go?,” Shero asked. “Yes, it was a mistake to let Rob Scuderi go on my part. To have a chance to have the do-over and bring Rob back here, that’s one thing I wanted to really try to do when he became available or (went) into the free-agent market.”
“He was a big part of our team. (With) the salary cap back then and the situation (where we) had to make a transition there, it was great to see him go out and get the contract he did in LA and more importantly to him, win another Stanley Cup. To be able to bring him and his family back to Pittsburgh and get that opportunity, I think that’s a good day for us.”
The 34-year-old Scuderi re-joins the Pittsburgh organization after spending the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2012. The defenseman originally played five-plus seasons with the Penguins between 2003-09 after being drafted by the organization back in 1998, helping the team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009.
Though Shero regretted letting Scuderi go, at first he didn’t believe that he would get the opportunity to try and bring him back – but that all changed this week as the new collective bargaining agreement allowed for a two-day interview period with prospective free agents and NHL clubs, a provision that was not in the previous CBA.
The Penguins seized the opportunity to speak with Scuderi, reiterating how it had been a mistake to let him go and letting him know how much the Penguins would love to have him back if at all possible.
“Rob Scuderi really wasn’t on the radar,” Shero said. “I think the feeling was he was probably going to go back to Los Angeles. But when he was going to go to the interview period, we were sitting around that day in the morning and saying, ‘Rob Scuderi, he’s at least going to interview.’ So I called his agent and said, ‘Would he have interest in coming back here, or at least talking about it?’ And he said, ‘Well I’ll chat with him.’ So then it was later on in the day, maybe about 4:30 (p.m.), had a 20-minute-to-half-hour chat with him. He had talked to some other teams. So that was the process with Rob, just kind of hearing back today.”
Shero did not get into specifics about who Scuderi would play with here, as that is a decision for the coaching staff to make. What Shero did say in addition to Scuderi having the ability to play with almost anybody is that they just want him to play the way he did for them in the past – as a steady, reliable, stay-at-home defenseman.
“What he brought to us in the past and continued to do in Los Angeles and gain that respect he has now around the league, I believe, is that defensive game, is the ability to play a simple game but with a maturity,” Shero said. “The guy’s a winner. He’s won two Cups and a national championship at Boston College. He’s another guy as you go on in your career you get better and better. I think as a defenseman, Rob Scuderi makes other people better as well. We’re not looking for a different player or different guy. Not looking for anything different than he did before. We’re looking for Rob Scuderi to come in here and fit in and become a big part of the team again. The leadership and character of what he brings, I think it’s really going to help our group.”
SHERO ON LENGTH OF CONTRACTS…
Just days after signing 34-year-old Pascal Dupuis to a four-year contract, Shero gave the three-months-older Scuderi the same length on his deal – generating concern about how these players would contribute at the end of their terms given that they would be 38 years old.
Another talking point about the length of the deals had been the perception that Shero characteristically did not sign older, veteran players to deals longer than 2-3 years. But Shero said that is actually a misconception, and cleared everything up on Friday:
“Just to clarify a couple things, (like) two-year contracts given out as my policy – I really don’t have a policy,” Shero explained. “I think what happened, just to kind of clarify this in terms of how this has evolved, is: when I first got the job, if I really knew what I was doing, I probably kind of faked it a little bit. So (I gave) Mark Eaton, a two-year contract. Matt Cooke, when he came in, (got) a two-year contract. Petr Sykora (got a) two-year contract. I didn’t know a lot of these guys except for Mark, so you just start and you kind of build a little bit. (With) two-year contracts, you get to know people. And what’s happened since ’06-07 started, since I’ve been here, that (when) you win a Cup (you say) okay, Matt Cooke, we’ll give you three years.
“But I think what’s really happened is that seven, eight years into a salary cap world, everybody’s tying up their players. Unless you’re willing to give your players term or other players term, there’s not enough players available. You’re not going to get them. So if I only want to offer a guy a two-year contract, he’s going to go to the next team for a four-year contract. You always have some reservation on 34, 35, 36-year-old guys, 32-year-old guys, depending. But sometime you’re going to have to (sign them). We know Rob Scuderi. If I’m going to pass on Rob Scuderi because I’m a little worried about what he’s going to be like when he’s 38, I’m not going to get him. So I like to do the planning, but at times you have to, especially the way this cap has gone and teams tying up their players, that you see more and more guys getting longer-term contracts. It’s just the reality now.”
SHERO ON PASCAL DUPUIS...
We spoke to Dupuis about his new deal, but hadn’t had a chance to ask Shero about the process from his end until today.
“With Pascal, I think we all knew he was very deserving of a pretty big salary increase. And he deserved that. I said that he was going to get it from us or from somebody else.
“I think what he’s done, there’s a real value in what he’s brought. You talk about a player getting better as they get older and I hear agents telling me now, they’re trying to sell me on their player. Well, he’s 27 or 28 or he’s 30. And you know what, he might be the next Pascal Dupuis. He might later in his career. And that’s a nice compliment to Pascal. That’s where he is now. It’s nice to see. He was an important player for us. He can play all around your lineup and he’s playing with Sid and Kuni the last couple years it seems, and doing very well for himself. A big part of what we have going.
“It’s a matter of trying to work those things out financially. Luckily for us, he wanted to be here. We know Pascal Dupuis very well. He knows us. We like what he brings and that character he has. There’s no interview process here with him. We know what he brings. So it was a good thing for him and his family and I think it’s a good thing for the Penguins.”