Why Gary Roberts could be huge this season
First, it seems Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal will play for the Penguins on Saturday. That is good and cautious news for Lightning No. 1 draft choice Steven Stamkos. While Stamkos said it will be "a thrill" to play against Crosby and "exciting," asked if it was going to be fun being on the same ice, he deadpanned in obvious deference to Crosby's talent, "I don't know about that."
Anyway, back to Roberts. The guy is old-school nasty, a disruptor and a leader. He was all over the ice during Tampa Bay's two scrimmages, was hitting, using his stick and being a general pain in the butt. No one could skate by him without getting a whack.
Off the ice he talks of playing with passion and, at 42, the second oldest NHL player under contract, working hard over the summer to become bigger, stronger and faster, and the guy has a physique that would put most to shame.
There has been some griping that signing Roberts and Mark Recchi, have hamstrung Tampa Bay when it comes to paying for other talent. And Roberts salary of $1.25-million could go over $2-million as he will be paid a $10,000 bonus for every game he plays. From what I've seen and heard so far, it's going to be worth it. Just listening to Roberts talk is an education. And he has played very well so far with center Chris Gratton. In fact, coach Barry Melrose has rotated a second wing to see who fits best on that line. Seems to me it's going to be Gratton, Roberts and, well, perhaps Adam Hall, perhaps Recchi. We'll see.
Sure, Roberts was hurt a lot last year. he broke a leg, had a bad ankle and a bad groin. And he might keel over during his first exhibition game, who knows? But with a team of new faces, it was smart to include one that every one in that locker room already knew. It also was smart to include a voice that will be heeded.