In his revelatory chat yesterday with Rich Hammond of the LA Daily News, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi was asked if the Kings were in search of a veteran defenseman during free agency. His response:
"I wouldn't mind looking at that. I wouldn't mind it because I would like to give our kids a cushion, but I don't want to go too far out (in terms of salary) and cut off my numbers to where I can't get the Hossa-type guys. At this time, I don't see a major thing out there. I wouldn't mind a good player to buy us some time, but I'm planning on the defense maturing as a group, and then spending my money up front. I don't see any blockbusters out there but you never know what you might stumble on later."
So does signing Pittsburgh Penguins UFA defenseman Rob Scuderi to four years at $3.4 million on the cap per season (via TSN) conform to that philosophy? Besides once again showing that when it comes to free agency, Lombardi has the patience of the knight who guarded the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones"?
The LA Kings list seven defensemen on their roster: Team Canada invitee Drew Doughty; alternate captain Matt Greene; Sean O'Donnell; Kyle Quincey; Davis Drewiske; Peter Harrold; and RFA and Team USA camp invitee Jack Johnson. Not to mention Thomas Hickey, toiling with the AHL Manchester Monarchs. (NHL Numbers has Tom Priessing under contract for 2009-10; he's not listed on the Kings' official roster, but on the Monarchs'. His house was put on the market in June.)
Looking at the Kings' defense, Scuderi is certainly "a cushion." He averaged 19:10 TOI during the regular season, which ballooned to 20:30 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He led the Penguins in TOI shorthanded (2:56) in the playoffs, too. He's a workhorse.
As for his contract, it'll be interested to see how it affects Johnson's negotiation. But more importantly, it'll be interesting to see how $3.4 million against the cap looks in a few years if Scuderi's incredible season was UFA-influenced. If the expectations are tempered for what is a complimentary player, then it could be a very nice signing.
"Complimentary player?" Sorry, we meant "The Piece." Penguins fans don't seem to begrudge Scuderi his right to move on for contractual reasons. Rob Rossi, who broke the signing, writes that Pittsburgh was offering five years and $10 million total.
After Hal Gill left for the Montreal Canadiens and Scuderi now leaves for the Kings, the Penguins need reinforcements for their Stanley Cup championship blue line. Luckily, that's where many of the franchise's better prospects play.
(We're much more interested in seeing who's on Malkin's wing after the summer.)
So thanks for the memories, Scuderi. OK, memory: