On Tuesday, Bryan Rust suggested he had outplayed his previous contract.
Four days later, Penguins management showed it agreed with Rust’s sentiment.
Late Saturday night, the team announced it had re-signed the veteran top-line winger to a six-year contract extension worth a total of $30.75 million.
The deal, which begins next season and runs through the 2027-28 season, will carry a salary cap hit of $5.125 million.
Rust, 30, is in the final year of a four-year contract with a salary cap hit of $3.5 million.
This past season, the right-hander set a career-high with 58 points (24 four goals, 34 assists) in only 60 games while averaging 18:46 of ice time per contest.
Primarily deployed on a line with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the team’s top-two centers, Rust has reached the 20-goal mark in each of the previous three seasons despite all three being limited either because of the pandemic or Rust’s health woes.
Capable of playing either wing, Rust has mostly been used on the team’s top line as well the top power-play unit the past two seasons.
During the Penguins’ exit interviews Tuesday in Cranberry, Rust professed a desire to remain with the Penguins despite being a pending unrestricted free agent this offseason.
“I’d love to return to the team,” Rust said. “I, obviously, love it here. Pittsburgh is a place that I’ve been here for a while. I have a lot of memories, started my family here and all that stuff. This place holds a special place in my heart.”
A third-round pick (No. 80 overall) in 2010, Rust has spent parts or all of the past eight seasons with the Penguins at the NHL level and was a key competent of the franchise’s Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and ‘17.
“(Rust) has been a really valuable player for our team in his time here,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He’s one of our more versatile players, he’s one of our best penalty killers, he plays on the power play. We play him in all the situations. He’s been a really valuable player for our team and our organization. He’s really evolved with his leadership skills.
“He works extremely hard, he trains hard, his practice habits are off the charts. He just does things the right way. He’s learned from some of our (core players) that have been here, that have built that culture. (Rust) is one of those that I think has not only benefited from that culture but also has started to share in that responsibility of making sure that we all live up to the standard of excellence that has been created here.”
With Rust signed, the Penguins have 12 remaining players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the NHL’s free agent signing period period opens July 13. The two most prominent members of that group are forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang.
Others are forwards Anthony Angello, Brian Boyle, Michael Chaput, Rickard Rakell, Evan Rodrigues, defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Taylor Fedun, Juuso Riikokla goaltenders Casey DeSmith and Louis Domingue.
Having been a productive player in recent seasons, Rust made no secret as to his desire to gain a raise with his next contract.
“I think for me, it’s just getting to a point where I feel like I’ve gotten what I’ve earned and what I feel like I’m worth,” Rust said. “I feel like I’ve played to a higher level than what my contract has said the last few years. Moving forward, just getting something’s that’s fair and I feel like that will benefit me and my family moving forward.”
“I’m not looking to rob anyone. I just want what I deem as fair and a reasonable contract. I think and I hope that something is going to get worked on.”
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