Sestito looking forward to second season with Penguins

Published Oct 12, 2016 at 12:00pm

It’s been quite a year for Rome native Tom Sestito on and off the ice.

The 29-year-old had a baby boy Killian in April, re-signed with the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins in July and got engaged to Jenna Crofoot in September.

“It’s been life-changing and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Sestito in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m excited to see what the future brings. Everyday is a new challenge.”

The Penguins, who had to finalize their roster by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, open the season on Thursday night at home against the Washington Capitals in an 8 o’clock start. They will raise the banner for the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title during a pregame ceremony.

The 6-foot-5, 228-pounder, was placed on waivers Sunday and cleared them. The Penguins have kept Sestito and the winger may play in the season-opener Thursday if center Sidney Crosby remains out with a concussion. Crosby is listed as day-to-day.

“I think as of now, I’m staying here,” Sestito said. “They (Pittsburgh) are tight against the (salary) cap, so they put me on waivers in case they had to make a roster move. There were no claims and I cleared waivers.”

The Penguins re-signed Sestito to a one-year, two-way $575,000 deal on July 1, the first day of free agency.

Sestito said he had other offers but felt a sense of loyalty toward the Penguins, who gave him a chance when nobody else would.

“I had a good (training) camp. I trained hard this offseason,” Sestito said. “I came out to Pittsburgh early and I think that helped me and I rolled with it. I want to stick here. I want to play more games here. I think putting in the extra work will help me in the long run.”

The lefthanded-shooter played four games with Pittsburgh last season. He notched one assist and accumulated 19 penalty minutes. In 41 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, Sestito tallied 14 points (five goals and nine assists) and racked up 104 penalty minutes. Sestito had four points (one goal and three assists) in seven games during the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs. He also spent a couple stints in Pittsburgh during the early rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, although he did not appear in any games.

Sestito, who plays a physical style, is hoping that some measure of skill, coupled with an open relationship with Penguins coach Mike Sullivan dating back to the pair’s time in Vancouver, could result in a few callups this winter.

“I have a lot of history with Sullivan coming here. He knows what I bring,” Sestito said. “He was honest with me when he was the coach in Wilkes. He was honest with me in Vancouver. I know what he expects. I know if I play my game, hopefully I’ll get some games up.”

“They know my style of play. I can fight. I want to show them I can play,” Sestito added. “If I have to go down to the minors, I’ll work on fine-tuning my game. Hopefully, I can come back up and get on the stat sheet, and not in the penalty box.”

Sestito has spent parts of seven NHL seasons with Columbus, Philadelphia and Vancouver, producing 19 points (10 goals and nine assists) in 141 career regular-season games. Sestito led the NHL in penalty minutes (213) during the 2013-14 season.

He is a veteran of 40 NHL regular season fights since 2009-10, including 19 in 2013-14 according to hockeyfights.com.

Sestito, who was originally drafted by the Blue Jackets after being selected in the third round (85th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft, has played in 297 career AHL regular-season games, including time with Syracuse, Springfield, Adirondack and Utica in addition to Wilkes-Barre Scranton. While in the AHL, Sestito has compiled 127 points (53 goals and 74 assists) and 991 penalty minutes.

“The AHL is a great league, but the NHL is a lot more fun,” Sestito said. “Plus the travel is a lot better. You fly on a plane, instead of riding on a bus.”

Sestito witnessed the Penguins receiving their championship rings on Monday night and wants one for himself along with bringing the Stanley Cup back to Rome for a day.

“When they got their rings, I was impressed,” he said. “Hopefully I can bring one (a ring) back to Rome. That would be a lot of fun (on having the Cup). I’d have to bring it down to the Galliano Club for an hour or two.”