Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 11:01 PM / Features
By Sam Kasan
The Penguins added skill, talent and depth to their lineup with the addition of center Cal O’Reilly via re-entry waivers from Phoenix Wednesday morning.
“Cal is a very skilled player with good vision, good hockey sense,” general manager Ray Shero said. “With our situation with a couple guys out, we’ll give him an opportunity and see how he does.”
O’Reilly, 25, is a natural center. But he has the versatility to be shifted to wing if need be, and he’s certainly willing to do whatever it takes to get on the ice.
“I haven’t played too much (wing) over my career,” O’Reilly said. “But I’m up for anything to play minutes and contribute here with a deep team like this.”
O’Reilly, who's 6-foot, 188 pounds, will take his physical Thursday and likely skate with the team then. He’ll be going through the process of learning the Penguins system and style of play.
O’Reilly’s Penguins debut isn’t yet known, though head coach Dan Bylsma said prior to Wednesday's game that “We’ll get him situated. I think (he’ll play) sooner than later.”
O’Reilly, who joined his new team in his hometown of Toronto Wednesday night, was having his best season in the NHL last year with Nashville, establishing career highs in games played (38), goals (6), assists (12), points (18) and rating (plus-4) until he suffered a broken leg.
“He’s coming off a bad injury last year,” said Shero, who originally drafted O’Reilly in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft as assistant general manager of the Predators. “He’s trying to get his game back.”
O’Reilly thrived last season while playing alongside current Pens winger Steve Sullivan. Both players were having great season until each were sidelined with injuries.
“I played a lot with (Sullivan) last year. We played most of the first 25-30 games together,” O’Reilly said. “We had good chemistry. We both had good starts to the year and both ended up getting hurt. That was the end of that. (But until then), we had some good chemistry.”
O’Reilly, whose younger brother Ryan is the leading scorer for the Colorado Avalanche, is a player that the Penguins had in their sights for some time, although the timing wasn’t right in prior situations where he went through waivers.
But by claiming O’Reilly off re-entry waivers, the Pens and Coyotes will equally split his 2011-12 salary with Pittsburgh paying him a prorated portion of $525,000 over the remainder of the season. Shero estimated the team would pay about $190,000.
With centers Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby out of the lineup and getting O’Reilly at a reduced salary due to the re-entry waivers, it proved a perfect time to make the pickup.
“He had been through waivers a little while ago. We talked about it, but it wasn’t the right time or money-wise it wasn’t right,” Shero said. “Coming re-entry and with Staal and Sid being out, we liked him enough in the past to give him an opportunity.”
And now it’s up to O’Reilly to make the most of that opportunity.
“I want to get my game going and try to help these guys as much as I can,” he said. “I’m taking it one day at a time. It’s up to me to perform.”