Rob Scuderi mistakenly called himself “the piece” of the Penguins run to a Stanley Cup Championship, and its likely that the Pens don’t get there without him being “the piece”, but is he really worth the money that he’s going to command on the open market?
The 2009 season was clearly Scuderi’s coming out party in more ways than one…this year was the first year that he’s proved himself as an ironman and played 80+ regular season games, plus all 24 playoff games. He had a career high 16 points (1g, 15a) and he learned when and how to pick up his physical play a bit more often.
But Scuderi, who is slated to hit free agency July 1st, was best known in the playoffs for being the Penguins defensmen who was in charge of shutting down opposing teams top players, He did a great job slowing down Jeff Carter in the first round against the Flyers, and struggled a bit before stepping up and slowing down Alexander Ovechkin later in the second series. The Eastern Conference finals matched Scuderi up against Eric Staal who can be one of the most dominant power forwards in the NHL, Staal was held to one goal throughout the series, and he was matched up against Scuderi quite often. In the Stanley Cup Finals, Scuderi was matched up with Henrik Zetterberg, and when he returned from injury, Pavel Datsyuk.
Scuderi had what was possibly a Stanley Cup saving “save” at the end of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, bailing out his goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, and preserving the win for the Penguins.
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero has reportedly stated that he feels that Scuderi will go to July 1 and test free agency. He said that he hopes that Scuderi will give Pittsburgh a chance to match any offer that Scuderi receives, but I didn’t think he sounded too optimistic. The Penguins are within a few million dollars of the salary cap with a lot of holes that need to be filled, and probably cant afford much more than $2 million to pay Scuderi. He’ll likely recieve 3-4 million on the open market, so unless he takes a drastic hometown discount, it looks like he may be moving on.
But I’m not so sure he’s worth the money. Sure he’s a defensive defensemen and is a staple on the penalty kill. But there are plenty of defensemen in the NHL that do the same job for much cheaper, and just as effectively. The Penguins may even have a defensemen worthy of the job in Ben Lovejoy. The Penguins have a lot of offensive minded puck moving defensemen, but those defensemen are very underrated in the terms of actual defense, Kris Letang and Sergei Gonchar are very capable shut down defensemen, and although newcomer Alex Goligoski may need some defensive tuning, he’ll be matched up with someone like Mark Eaton who just stays at home (who coincidentally makes $2 million) who just may turn out to be a great replacement for Scuderi.
If I’m General Manager Ray Shero I think if the cost for Scuderi is anything more than $2 million, I say “Thanks, but no thanks, We’ll send you your ring.” Eaton, Lovejoy and any number of free agents will be cheaper yet serviceable replacements. If Scuderi does move on, maybe the Penguins look to re-sign Hal Gill, he made $2.075 million last year, and if he re-signs for that, then he can help shore up the defensive zone for the Penguins. If I’m the Penguins and Scuderi moves on, I would look into signing someone like Greg Zanon from Nashville, he had a $725,000 cap hit last year, and could probably be signed for somewhere in the $1-1.5 million range.
Scuderi may have been the piece in Pittsburgh this year, but its looking like he will be next year.