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Penguins, Bortuzzo strike deal, avoid arbitration

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 4:06 p.m.

The Penguins and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo avoided salary arbitration.

Bortuzzo, a restricted free agent, agreed Wednesday to a two-year contract worth $600,000 per season.

“I couldn't be happier,” Bortuzzo said Thursday.

The Penguins are more than $1 million over the salary cap and have until Oct. 3 to become compliant with the $64.3 million cap.

They are expected to make at least one trade to move under the salary cap.

Bortuzzo, 24, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, played in 15 regular-season games last season. He scored two goals and was a plus-3 for the Penguins. Bortuzzo did not dress in the playoffs.

The 6-foot-4 defenseman's long reach and physical presence complements a defensive group better known for its speed and offensive skill.

Bortuzzo also adds toughness and became known in the American Hockey League for his willingness to fight the minor league's toughest customers.

“Between the organization and the city,” Bortuzzo said, “Pittsburgh is obviously where I want to be.”

The Penguins have eight defensemen — Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Simon Despres, Deryk Engelland and Bortuzzo — who played in the NHL last season under contract. They also have prospects such as Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington who aren't far from being NHL-ready.

Orpik, Niskanen and Engelland are set to become unrestricted free agents following the 2013-14 season. Despres will be a restricted free agent.

“The team's premium on winning is something I wanted to be a part of,” Bortuzzo said.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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