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Ruslan Fedotenko stays with Penguins // Tribune-Review
By Rob Rossi.
Just one look and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma felt really good about his weekend getaway.
"It'll be a little easier to enjoy everything knowing that we have most of our guys and almost all of our forwards coming back," Bylsma said Friday after the Penguins and winger Ruslan Fedotenko agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.8 million.
"Being able to put Ruslan back up there on our (depth chart) board, from a forward standpoint, we were able to keep some guys that were key factors and who did some big things for us."
Fedotenko, 30, will make $450,000 less next season than he did during his first with the Penguins, who are committed to $53.843 million against the $56.8 million salary cap.
He's among 11 of 12 forwards to play in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final who will return to help the Penguins defend their title. Sixteen of 20 players in the lineup for Game 7 will return next season.
"That's so rare having this many guys coming back to a Cup team," said Fedotenko, who celebrated his contract in Wisconsin by waiting two hours for road service to take his broken-down car to the shop. "With the cap, that's almost unheard of. I didn't want to pass up a chance like this to win another Cup."
A two-time Cup winner, Fedotenko enhanced his reputation as a clutch postseason performer with seven goals and 14 points in the playoffs -- the latter a total that ranked fourth among Penguins.
Fedotenko declined offers from several clubs, including Minnesota, to stay with the Penguins, even though he sought a multi-year deal they were unwilling to provide.
Another year as the left wing on a line centered by Evgeni Malkin, the NHL's regular-season and playoff scoring leader, was pro-Penguins factor.
Bylsma isn't a fan of drafting line combinations two months before training camp opens, but he grew fairly fond of the Fedotenko-Malkin-Max Talbot trio over the final two-plus playoff rounds.
"There were elements to the line that worked in our favor," he said. "Ruslan is a big, tough guy that will go to scoring areas and battle. Max has good speed and is defensive-minded, and he showed (with four Final goals, including two in Game 7) he can score.
"Those two really afford 'Geno' a lot of time and space, and we have this great 1-2 punch along with (captain Sidney Crosby's) line."
With only $2.957 million in available cap room, Shero has little room to sign additional players to NHL-only contracts. However, he reiterated yesterday that bringing in a veteran defenseman to help replace departed blue-line staples Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill is a possibility.
The Penguins are known to have engaged in talks with representatives for stay-at-home defenseman Jay Mckee, 30. St. Louis bought out the final year of his contract Monday and will pay him roughly $2.666 million next season.
Prospect Ben Lovejoy, a Bylsma favorite in the AHL before the coach's Feb. 15 Penguins promotion, also will get a chance to compete for the final defense spot.
Shero also hasn't ruled out re-signing winger Petr Sykora, who scored 25 goals for the Penguins during the regular season -- though, discussions won't reconvene until next week, he said.
No matter what direction the Penguins take after this third day of the offseason, Bylsma is confident he has a group ready to again contend for that silver chalice.
"I've been sitting around looking at our board, and I'm thinking that it's much better than it was last year at this time," he said. "And last year turned out pretty good."