Free agent defenseman Rob Scuderi, a key piece of the Kings’ puzzle during their charge to the Stanley Cup championship in 2012 and a second straight run to the Western Conference finals in ’13, signed a four-season, $13.5-million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
“I still think I have a lot of good hockey let in me,” the 34-year-old Scuderi told Pittsburgh reporters within hours of the opening of the NHL’s free-agent signing period. “I’m here to clean up a mess if I have to. … It’s not the prettiest game in the world, but I’m still effective.”
At first glance, Scuderi’s return to the team he helped lead to the Stanley Cup title in ’09 leaves a dramatic void in the Kings’ lineup. It also creates an opening for an enhanced role for a young player like Slava Voynov, who agreed to a six-season, $25-million contract extension during the playoffs.
What’s more, with the acquisition of Robyn Regehr this past season plus Matt Greene’s return from early-season back surgery and the anticipated comeback from knee surgery that knocked out Willie Mitchell for all of 2012-13, the Kings would seem to be in fine shape on the blue line.
Scuderi sounded open to a return to the Kings after the team’s elimination from the playoffs at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the West finals last month. However, returning to the East was a move from his family.
He grew up on Long Island and has a home in the Boston suburbs.
Voynov and Scuderi play vastly different games, but veterans Regehr, Greene and Mitchell are cut from the same defensive-minded cloth. Voynov is a emerging power-play quarterback, but Regehr, Greene and Mitchell are content to play the at-home style at which Scuderi excelled. Scuderi had one goal and 11 assists in all 48 games last season.
Overall, Scuderi scored only four goals and had 43 assists with the Kings in 285 games over four seasons. He also played all but nine games during his tenure with the Kings, making him all the more dependable on the ice.