Penguins defensman Matt Niskanen spoke this afternoon about his new contract and other matters involving the Penguins today. Here's a transcript of his interview with the Post-Gazette.
What's your reaction to getting a new contract?
"Super thrilled. I’m glad that Pittsburgh wanted me back and that’s where I want to be back. To get it done early is just a treat."
Is it a relief to get it done before the flurry of activity with free agency tomorrow?
"I suppose. I wasn’t sweating if we weren’t able to but I’m glad that it’s over and we were able to get it done when we did. I can focus on training this offseason and sit on the sidelines as the the big free agency day approaches."
Is there security in getting a deal done with the collective bargaining agreement in question?
"I think that’s something a lot of players are kind of wondering about what’s going to happen right around training camp. We’ll see how that progresses. But it’s nice to have a two-year deal. I’m not that worried about the CBA but it is an unknown so it is nice to have the two years that way."
With Zybnek Michalek gone, do you anticipate taking on a larger role in the future?
"I hope so. Obviously we have a lot great defenseman in our organization already and we’ll see what happens. But that’s a goal of mine is to have always have more responsibility, more minutes. I look forward to bringing a good work ethic into training and hopefully moving up in the minutes. Just looking forward to having another successful and playing my game."
The team is expected to use more young defensemen next season. Do you need to take on more of a leadership role?
"Without question Sidney Crosby, he’s our a leader but good teams have a lot of leaders. This will be my sixth season now so I’m getting to the point now where I have some experience and I can lead as well with work ethic and example."
How much has your game grown since coming to the Penguins?
"I’m really happy with how it’s gone. Dan and all the coaches, especially (assistant coach) Todd Reirden, have worked with me and have been super positive in helping me become a better player. I’m really happy with the way its gone. My game has come a long way. I have confidence back. I feel like (last season) was my most consistent season. I’m just looking forward to improving more this season."
A few weeks ago, Ray Shero said he would have to move one or two waiver-eligible defensemen off the roster? Were you worried you could have been moved?
"Yeah. I said it right after the season, I had a strong desire to come back to Pittsburgh. I love it there. I played my best there in Pittsburgh. I love everything about the organization. I was hoping that I would be back. I was just thrilled they wanted to do a deal. Until you get that contract signed, there’s that possibility they can move you if something were happen. I’m happy to get the deal done and just trilled they want me back because it’s a good place to play."
Does Sidney Crosby signing a new contract for an identical cap hit as his previous contract send a message to the team or the entire NHL?
"Defintely. I thought an excellent move by Sid that show what kind of guys he is, where his priorities are. He wants to win. Everyone knows it but that proves it. What he did with his deal, I thought that was a tremendous leadership move by him. Obviously it’s great to have him for that long term. I think that sends a message about what kind of guy he is. It’s about winning and having a winning team and he wants to have good players around him. A very good move there."
What was your reaction to seeing Jordan Staal and Michalek traded last weekend?
"It was quite a surprise. It’s tough to see teammates leave especially when you get close with the guys. I was good friends with both of them but business decisions need to be made. Happy for both of them to both be going to good situations. It was a shock though."
What are your memories of facing new center Brandon Sutter when he played for the Hurricanes?
"A real honest player. A good checker. Good positionally. And I think he has more offense than some people give him credit for. From what I remember, he has some skill in the offensive zone and can find the net. He plays the game the right way and I’m looking forward to playing with him."
(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)