Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pens bring back missing 'Piece'

By Jeff

Just when you think Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero doesn't have any more major moves up his sleeves, he bitch slaps you and reminds you he's Ray "F-ing" Shero.

The Pens GM made a huge move yesterday by bringing back former Pens defenseman Rob Scuderi. You may remember Scuderi as the self-proclaimed "Piece".

While the nickname "The Piece" began as a joke during the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, if you look at the Pens' lack of post season success since Scuderi left, it has a ring of truth to it.

Scuderi left after the Pens won the 2009 Stanley Cup. The team has not really had a shut down defenseman since then. Shero tried to shore up the blue line with Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, but after a good season, they both regressed. Michalek was shipped out, while Martin found his game again in 2013. But Martin is more of the puck-moving type and not so much the stay at home and do the dirty work kind of guy. Scuderi fills that void and makes the Pens a better team.

I have read in some places that people are concerned with the 4-year, $13.5 million deal that comes with a $3.35 million cap hit. I get it. Scuderi is 34 and will probably regress when he is 37 and 38. But I worry less about Scuderi and this deal than I do the Pascal Dupuis deal. Scuderi has never been a player that amazed you with speed. It's not his game. He plays a safe, stay-at-home type of defense. His game doesn't rely on speed. It relies on positioning, doing dirty work in front of the net, blocking shots and playing smart. When Scuderi loses a step, he'll have less of an adjustment to make than someone who relies on speed, like Dupuis or Kris Letang.

The $3.35 million cap hit is also a solid deal if you look at Cap Geek's comparables. Would you rather Scuderi at this price or Nick Grossman, Stephane Robidas, Andrew Ference, Ladislav Smid or Bryan Allen for similar costs. I'll happily take "The Piece" over any of those guys.

Now Shero needs to work a little more magic. While the team currently has a little less than $700,000 in cap space for next season, they have about $1.9 million in qualifying offers out there for Robert Bortuzzo, Dustin Jeffrey and the worthless Harry Zolniercyk. The popular thought I've heard is that Matt Niskanen and his $2.3 million salary will be moved. It's not a big deal if Niskanen is moved. He has had two solid seasons with the Pens, but nothing special. The team has plenty of talented defensemen in the system that will have to get a chance at some point. Why not now?

Salary cap questions aside, this was the right move for the Pens. How many teams would kill to have a top four of Brooks Orpik, Martin, Letang and Scuderi?

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