Craig Adams consistently plays all 82 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but for once he had to play the waiting game.
The chance for the Penguins to re-sign the veteran Adams before free agency came and went, and he found himself in the “nerve-wracking” state of being an unrestricted player.
“All along we were hoping we could get something done with the Penguins,” Adams said. “But they had other things that they needed to work out and get squared away first.”
General manager Ray Shero spoke candidly with both Adams, 36, and the media about his priorities. Adams said he did not want to be a “burden” by signing a contract but not having a place on the team to play, and Shero did not want to sign the 13-year forward and then make moves that would knock him out of the Penguins’ plans.
“That’s not where we are,” Shero said. “It’s giving him three days in free agency to look around, and he deserves that.”
In the end, Shero offered Adams a two-year contract worth $700,000 per season, and Adams was happy to accept. The two-time Stanley Cup winner (Carolina, 2006 and Pittsburgh, 2009) returns to what he calls the NHL’s “best organization.”
One important factor in Adams’ signing with the Penguins was keeping his family in Pittsburgh, their home for the last four years. He was born in the East Asian country of Brunei, where his father worked for Shell, before moving to Calgary, Alberta at age 3. Craig wanted his wife Anne and their three kids to stay in one place.
“My family's very happy in Pittsburgh,” Adams said. “With the kids in school and just being settled somewhere and having that familiarity, a place you like and have friends.”
The other factor was Adams getting to stay with his Penguins teammates for the next two years and compete to add his name to Lord Stanley’s Cup for a third time.
“Professionally, that's what it's all about. Once you've done it, you want to do it again,” Adams said. “With the group we have in place now, and looks like we'll have in place for a few years, this is a team that is gonna compete and should be competing for a Stanley Cup.”
Adams, 36, led all Penguins forwards in shorthanded minutes last year and was second with 37 blocked shots. The veteran has missed only three games over his last four seasons in Pittsburgh. His season debut will be regular-season game No. 800 for Adams and the start of his 14th NHL season.
He attributes his durability and staying away from injury to both luck and his conditioning program keeping him in top shape.
“Even at my age, I still feel great, feel younger than I am, that's for sure,” Adams said. “I realized early on that I wasn't gonna be a guy that would score more goals than everybody else. It was something where I felt that I could have an edge.”
Adams does not know what his exact role on the Penguins will be over the next two seasons, but calls head coach Dan Bylsma a great coach who has given him plenty of opportunities.
“I definitely enjoy playing for Dan. That's one of the draws of playing in Pittsburgh,” Adams said. “I have confidence if I hold up my end of the deal, then Dan will continue to put me in where I can succeed.”
No matter where he plays or who he is with, Adams got what he wanted: a chance to stay in Pittsburgh. Now that the waiting game is over, Adams can focus on one of his biggest goals: playing every single game for his Penguins team.
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