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Pens make 'difficult call' on Guerin

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Friday, Aug. 27, 2010

Bill Guerin never needed a letter on his sweater to provide the Penguins leadership or levity as he did in 2009 when they most needed those intangibles.

They'll miss those this season - not to mention the 20 or so goals that could be expected to come from his right-handed shot.

Guerin was told late Wednesday that he would not be offered a contract to play his final NHL season with the Penguins.

"It was a difficult call to make," general manager Ray Shero said. "He wanted to play here, wanted to finish here. He loved the team. His family loved the community. You think about all of those things when you make a call like that."

Guerin declined comment, but the chances are he will play one last season. A few teams, including Boston, are known to have expressed interest.

Set to turn 40 in November, he remains a consistent scorer, marking 21 times last regular season and tying for the Penguins' lead among wingers with four playoff goals.

Acquired at the trade deadline in March 2009 for a third-round pick from the New York Islanders, Guerin made an immediate impact with center Sidney Crosby, who would be his linemate for most of the next 14 months.

Prior to a game at Florida, his Penguins debut, Guerin ribbed Crosby, and the good-natured teasing continued as the team worked its way out of a three-month funk. He scored on the ice, too - racking five goals in 17 regular-season games before adding seven tallies in the playoffs on the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup.

He briefly toyed with retirement after lifting the Cup for a second time - he also won with New Jersey in 1995 - but re-signed with the Penguins for $2 million.

Shero denounced speculation that Guerin was unwilling to take less money this season with the Penguins at $1.7 million below the NHL's $59.4 million salary cap.

"We never got to that point with Billy, talking about salary," Shero said. "It was a difficult call and something we talked about a lot, bringing him back. But in the end, it was my decision.

"Can Billy still play in this league• Absolutely. We just had to make a decision if it would be here, and it was hard because he wanted to be back."

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