PITTSBURGH – Turns out more than one player is willing to take a hometown discount to stay with the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ruslan Fedotenko signed a US$1.8-million, one-year contract Friday, becoming the third forward to take a pay cut so he wouldn’t have to leave a mostly young team that expects to be a championship contender for years.
Fedotenko made $2.25 million last season, when he bounced back from a disappointing regular season (16 goals, 39 points) to get seven goals and seven assists in the playoffs.
Craig Adams ($600,000 to $550,000) and Bill Guerin ($4.5 million to $2 million) also accepted salary cuts to stay once the free-agent signing period began Wednesday.
Enforcer Mike Rupp got a raise from $500,000 to $800,000 to leave New Jersey, but it is difficult to persuade free agents to take a pay cut and switch teams.
“I think it says a lot about Bill Guerin, Craig Adams and Ruslan Fedotenko to want to come back here and be part of this group,” general manager Ray Shero said Friday. “A guy like Mike Rupp really adds to our depth, our grit and our character, and obviously all these guys have won in the past. I’m happy with our forward group.”
The defence is thinner following the departures of Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill, Pittsburgh’s shutdown combination during the playoffs. Both signed for far more money than the Penguins – currently only $2.96 million under the salary cap – could afford.
Scuderi, who made $725,00 last season, signed a $13.6-million, four-year deal with Los Angeles, or about $1.4 million more per season than Pittsburgh offered. Gill signed for $4.5 million over two years with Montreal; the Penguins were interested only in a one-year contract.
“We don’t win without those two guys, for sure,” Shero said. “In Scuds’ case, by NHL standards he has not made a lot of money. It’s harder to find a nicer guy than Rob, so to see him take advantage of the system and the great year he had is really satisfying. That’s the system and I’m thrilled for him.”
Scuderi and Gill took on bigger roles when No. 1 defenceman Sergei Gonchar missed three-quarters of the season with a shoulder injury, then tore a knee ligament during the playoffs. With Gonchar expected to be healthy when he returns for training camp in September, along with Brooks Orpik, Mark Eaton, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, Shero anticipates adding only one experienced defenceman.
“We’ve been in touch with a number of guys that are unrestricted (free agents) so we’re going to wait and see,” said Shero, who won’t rule out a trade. “I think we’re in good shape – we want to find the right guy, the right fit.”
Shero hasn’t gotten a recent medical update on Gonchar, who was badly injured during the second round against Washington but returned after missing only two games.
“No news is good news, right?” Shero said.
While the Penguins are bringing back Fedotenko, they aren’t making a strong push to re-sign forward Petr Sykora, who had 25 goals in 76 regular-season games but was injured or ineffective throughout the playoffs. The 32-year-old Sykora had only two goals in his final 24 games.
“Maybe we’ll revisit it next week and see where we’re at,” Shero said. “I haven’t closed the door.”
By signing Rupp, the Penguins added to their collection of players who have scored the game-winning goal in a Stanley Cup Game 7. They have three of the last four to do so in Rupp (2003), Fedotenko (2004) and Max Talbot (2009).
The 30-year-old Fedotenko became the first Ukrainian-born player to win the Stanley Cup when he scored both Tampa Bay goals in a 2-1 victory in Game 7 against Calgary.