(Updated: 3:45 p.m. Tuesday)
Pittsburgh got a head start on its free agent shopping Monday by re-signing two key members of the Stanley Cup-winning team, bringing wingers Bill Guerin and Craig Adams back into the fold.
Both players willingly took discounts in order to remain Penguins. Guerin, who made $4.5 million last season - split between Long Island and Pittsburgh - signed on the dotted line for one year at $2 million. One Web site reported the deal comes with bonuses that could bring the total up to $2.85 million, but a newspaper article appears to say there are no bonuses. Adams took a rather smaller pay cut, as he made only $600K last season. That number is down to $550K over two years, for a contract worth $1.1 million. But hey, a discount is a discount.
It's a win-win for Guerin, whose kids became - similar to Evgeni Malkin's parents - minor celebrities at Penguins home games, becoming regulars on the JumboTron with signs reading, "My Dad (#13) Rocks" and the like. [Guerin wears #13.] Meanwhile, Guerin's personality in the locker room really set guys on ease and is cited as a key reason Guerin was so valuable during the playoffs.
Pittsburgh's free agency list now reads: Petr Sykora, Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan, Mike Zigomanis, Rob Scuderi, Philippe Boucher and Hal Gill. Among the fans' most desired returnees are Zigomanis, Scuderi and Fedotenko. Among the holes to fill are a second-line winger, a depth forward, one or two defensemen and a backup goalie, with around $5 million to spend, if my math is right.
Some believe the Adams signing spells the end for Zigomanis, and that appears to be the case. On Tuesday, Zigomanis' agent Kurt Overhardt said he thinks it's a "fait accompli" that Zigomanis will not return to the Penguins, which is unfortunate, since Zigomanis was very good on faceoffs and would've proven quite a bit useful in the final minute of Game 7 of the Final (though it turned out alright in the end.)
There is also hope that guys like Scuderi and Fedotenko follow the lead set by Guerin and Adams and accept a smaller amount to remain with the team. If it doesn't happen, I won't begrudge either player to go for the money. If someone throws $4 million annually at Scuderi - which would be an insane amount for him - then it's hard to turn that down.
Working in Pittsburgh's favor, in Scuderi's case at least, is Scuderi knows about as firsthand as possible how unhappy someone can be by leaving a situation like his to make a quick buck. Former teammate Ryan Malone signed a hefty contract in Tampa Bay, and, if reports are to be believed, was almost begging Ray Shero to try and work out a trade to return him to the 'burgh. Malone also visited his former teammates prior to a game and expressed his discontent with the Lightning. Some, like Brooks Orpik, recalled the story after winning the Cup.
Now, with Guerin's re-signing, Scuderi has evidence of how it can go both ways, and we'll see what he decides. He's on record saying he'll test the market but will give Shero a chance to see how close he can come to the offer Scuderi likes best.
Regardless, I'm a tad excited about Guerin being back. I never expected the Penguins to be key figures in free agency this summer, so in terms of that, bringing Guerin back is about as good as it gets.
Refreshing to hear that in these hard times, athletes show a good example by accepting lower salaries. Sure hope many others will follow their lead and not ask for obscenely big salaries when so many people have, and still do, no jobs, etc.
Bless a caring athlete!
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