Pittsburgh Penguins: Joe Vitale's Contract Extension Is Affordable, Yet Valuable

Alison MyersCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 29: Joe Vitale #46 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Philadelphia Flyers during the game at Consol Energy Center on December 29, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Friday morning that forward Joe Vitale was signed to a two-year contract extension.

It marks the second time in his tenure that his contract has been extended; he had previously agreed to an additional two years in the 2009-10 season.

Vitale has certainly earned his keep in the Penguins organization. 

He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL Draft and came into the AHL in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after four years at Northeastern University. 

He had four points in his first five AHL games in 2008-09 and played in all of WBS’ playoff games.

Vitale had two 30-point seasons in Wilkes-Barre, and also contributed in the postseason with eight points in 15 playoff games in 2010 and 2011. 

Last season, he had two points in nine games in his first NHL call-up. 

In Pittsburgh, he showed versatility in several different areas of the game, finishing No. 4 in faceoffs, winning 56.2 percent of them and logging 18 hits, averaging about 10 minutes of ice time.

This season, Vitale's ice time has increased to 11 minutes per game, and he leads the Pens, winning 55.9 percent of faceoffs. 

He's also tied for No. 8 in hits with 63, and currently has 10 points in 44 games.

Vitale plays with a physical edge to his game; he's never afraid to lay a big hit or drop the gloves, which he demonstrated in a recent bout with Tim Brent of the Carolina Hurricanes.

He's also good on the penalty kill and is a bottom-pairing player who will work hard to get every one of his points.

In addition, Vitale's track record of producing in the postseason will be an asset as Pittsburgh heads toward a playoff seed. 

While the team has stars such as Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, who will be responsible for the majority of production, it will help to have players like Vitale step up.

After all, no matter how good a player he is, he can't carry the team by himself.  The Penguins will need depth players like Vitale if they want to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The contract is affordable, which is something Ray Shero has come to be known for as the Penguins' GM. 

Vitale will make $550,000 per year when his contract takes effect in the 2012-13 season.

Vitale is another success story of players who may slip under the radar, but still manage to work themselves into a key role in the NHL. 

The Penguins have had many underrated players come through their system in recent years, such as Mark Letestu, Nick Johnson and Dustin Jeffrey.

While two of those players (Letestu and Johnson) have moved on to other teams, it's guys like this who have helped shape the Penguins into the team they are right now.

Their contributions gave the Pens a boost that they might not have gotten otherwise.

Vitale’s extension is a bargain, but for all the right reasons.