Today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that defenseman Deryk Engelland received a three-year contract extension.
Engelland’s new deal will start in the 2011-12 season and run until 2014. He will receive an average salary of $566,700.
I have known about Engelland for several years before he got his big break in the NHL. First, he was a member of the rival Hershey Bears, a team that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins love to hate. He won a Calder Cup Championship with the Bears in 2006 and was a finalist with the team in 2007.
Prior to the 2007-08 season, Engelland signed with the Penguins and stayed in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for three years. In those three years, he only missed nine out of 240 regular season games. He was a member of the 2008 Baby Penguins squad that went to the Calder Cup Finals to square off with the Chicago Wolves.
From 2007-2010, Engelland only posted 42 points in 231 games. However, what attracted Penguins fans to him was his physical style of play and willingness to drop the gloves with just about anyone who wanted to. He had more than 100 penalty minutes each year, totaling 405 penalty minutes for his AHL Penguins career.
Engelland came on board when popular Wilkes-Barre/Scranton enforcer Dennis Bonvie was nearing the end of his career. Once 2008-09 rolled around and Bonvie was retired, fans were no longer worried about who would replace "Bones." Many believed Engelland was the guy.
After seven seasons of traveling around the ECHL and AHL, Engelland received his first NHL call-up last season. In nine games with Pittsburgh, he had two assists and 17 penalty minutes.
This year, Engelland came into training camp determined to stick on the NHL roster. He surprised many by making the team when most people were sure that defensive prospect Ben Lovejoy would make the team and Engelland would return to Wilkes-Barre.
Sure, Lovejoy is on the roster now, but he has often been given press box time while Engelland gets ice time.
Engelland has shown that Dan Byslma is making the right decision between him and Lovejoy. He has stood out so far, with five points and 76 penalty minutes in 32 games. In his NHL fighting career, he has taken on notable tough guys such as Colton Orr and Jody Shelley. He even fought former Penguins teammate Paul Bissonnette in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
It is hard to see how one can be unhappy with today’s news.
First of all, this is a cap friendly salary. Penguins' General Manager Ray Shero is not known for overspending on players, and although Engelland has been valuable to the Penguins, Shero still gave him a fair paycheck. Since Engelland has not had any injury or disciplinary problems, the contract will be worth it.
Engelland is a hard worker. He spent two years in the Capitals organization and played with the ECHL in Las Vegas, Reading, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, but never stopped chasing his NHL dream. He continued to make positive contributions rather than complaining about the hand he got dealt. He has served as an alternate captain in the AHL, making him a player his younger teammates can look up to.
In fact, in a recent radio interview, a Pittsburgh area radio personality asked Engelland if he was considering retiring because he had yet to get a full-time NHL contract.
Engelland responded that retiring had never crossed his mind. He added that it didn’t matter what city or what league he played in; he was just enjoying playing hockey.
When it seems like a lot of talent is going straight from juniors to the NHL, or spending limited time in development leagues, it is always nice to hear about a guy who paid his dues to make it to the big leagues. One thing NHL fans never get tired of is a story of hard work and perseverance, and Engelland fits the bill.
After seven years as a professional, he is finally seeing his reward: A secure NHL contract and a future on a Stanley Cup contender.
He could probably even relax a little knowing that he is in the NHL for good, but knowing him, that word is not in his vocabulary.