There was, Marcus Pettersson said, no structure in place for a long-term deal when he signed a one-year contract for significantly below market value with the Penguins last summer.
No details about salary, or how long an agreement would cover had been worked out.
This was just a handshake and a promise.
And that, Pettersson said today, was all he needed.
"My agent and I put a lot of trust (in Jim Rutherford), and rightfully so," he said, adding that "they were pretty clear from the beginning that they believed in me and I wanted to lay that same trust in them. And it worked out well."
Quite well, actually, because Pettersson and the team have agreed to a five-year deal. It takes effect in 2020-21 and carries a salary-cap hit of $4,025,175.
That's considerably more than the $874,125 he is being paid this season, when he is working on a cut-rate contract that he accepted because the team had virtually no cap space with which to work.
"We didn't want to be in the situation we were in, but it was a unique situation," Pettersson said. "I trust the organization, and I wanted to do something that was good for the team. The situation we were in in the summer, with the cap being what it was and everything like that, it was just not possible (to get a market-value deal)."
Pettersson, 23, has validated management's faith in him with a solid season. He has one goal and 14 assists in 50 games, and is the only member of the Penguins' defense corps to appear in every game in 2019-20. He also ranks fourth on the team in blocked shots (57) and hits (78).
"I just wanted to do the best I can all year this year to prove that they still want me for the long term," said Pettersson, who was acquired from Anaheim Dec. 3, 2018 in exchange for Daniel Sprong, and quickly established himself as a regular on their blue line.
“In just over a year, Marcus has had a significant impact on our defensive group,” Rutherford said in a statement released by the team. “He is young, reliable and smart, which is important in today’s game. Marcus is part of our young core and it was important to get him signed long-term.”
Pettersson, who is 6 feet 3, 177 pounds, has grown as a player at both ends of the ice since coming over the from Ducks, and said that continuing to grow -- in the most literal of senses -- remains a priority.
"As soon as I got here, I felt like I could really develop," he said. "I, for sure, would still want to be stronger, put more weight on."
Although defense tandems can get reconfigured as players move in and out of the lineup, Pettersson has been working primarily alongside John Marino on the No. 2 pairing.
Both focus primarily on playing well defensively, but have the instincts and ability get involved in the offense when the opportunity arises.
And while there are no guarantees -- at least not for players who don't have an all-encompassing no-trade clause in their contract -- it's not hard to envision Pettersson-Marino as a pairing that will be intact here for quite a few seasons.
The commitment the Penguins have made to Pettersson -- and the one he has made to them -- makes their mutual interest in staying together pretty clear.
"I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity," Pettersson said. "As soon as I got to Pittsburgh, this is a place you want to be. With the history they have and the winning mentality and the core group (of players) still being here, I felt like this was, by far, the best option.
"And I haven't really thought about anything else but being here for a long time."
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