PITTSBURGH-The Pittsburgh Penguins took a look at the free agent market last summer and decided to target a familiar name.
He'd played for the Penguins before and had been a high-round draft pick.
He was older, near the end of his career, but worth the risk because of the role he could fill on the current team.
But Jaromir Jagr signed with the Philadelphia Flyers instead.
The Penguins wrapped up a different homecoming story when they signed forward Richard Park to a one-year deal.
It was a low-risk signing, and it's been high reward through the first month of the season.
The speedy Park has helped with penalty killing, he's been good on faceoffs and he's shown some creativity as a playmaker, collecting four assists to go with two goals in the team's first 12 games.
"I think the intelligence and work ethic he plays the game with are very high," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don't think we were surprised we would get something like this."
The Korean-born Park, who moved to California at age three, was the Penguins' second round selection in an otherwise lackluster 1994 draft. He was the 50th player chosen overall.
"It was exciting to go to camp as an 18-year-old," Park said. "I was very star struck by the players who were here. It was a blast. It was a lot of fun for me. Nothing but really good memories."
Park appeared in just one regular season game for the Penguins that year. It was hard to crack a lineup with Jagr, Ron Francis, Luc Robitaille, Joe Mullen, Kevin Stevens and Tomas Sandstrom.
Even though Mario Lemieux was taking a sabbatical from hockey that season to recover from cancer treatments and back surgery, the Penguins were still loaded and didn't need help from a teenage prospect.
Park played 56 games the next season and was traded to Anaheim. That started an odyssey that took him to five other NHL organizations and overseas stops in Sweden and Switzerland.
He spent four years with the Islanders, and the Penguins took note of his work there.
"He was a guy who was roughly around 30 to 35 points in a third or fourth-line role," Bylsma said. "Penalty killer, out for faceoffs in defensive situations. That's what we saw. We also had people in our organization who had played with him.
"(He's a) hard-working, tenacious, intelligent player, on the penalty kill and five-on-five. (He's a) guy with enough skill and intelligence to chip in and be effective in a third or fourth line role."
Much has changed since Park was a rookie. Lemieux is now one of the team's owners. The Civic Arena has been replaced by the Consol Energy Center.
"The one thing that's very similar is the winning atmosphere," Park said. "People in the organization are accustomed to winning. There was a time period from my first camp until now when the team did struggle. But when I came to camp, the team had won two Cups. In that sense, it's very similar."
For that reason, Park didn't hesitate when the chance to rejoin the Penguins presented itself.
"It was just too good an opportunity to pass up," he said. "I'm very excited to be here."
Park made some history as an opponent. He was killing a penalty for the Islanders and scored a goal at the Civic Arena while his team was two men short.
He had done the same thing in a game against the Rangers.
"Scoring a goal is obviously the last thing you're thinking about there," Park said. "It just presented itself."
But it doesn't happen unless a player has the speed and the vision to see the play developing, along with the skill to finish and take advantage of the situation.
That's what Park does.
At 35, he still has the speed that made him such a hot prospect in 1994. But now he has the experience to go with it.
So is he the wise old veteran now?
"Well, I like the wise part," he said with a smile.
Goalie Denis Herron and forward Mark Recchi are the champions of comebacks with the Penguins.
They both had three separate stints with the team.
Besides Richard Park, these players had two separate terms with the Penguins (restricted to those who played for another NHL team in between their stays in Pittsburgh):
Dave Burrows, 1971-78, 1980-82
Rod Buskas, 1982-89, 1989-90
Rob Brown, 1987-91, 1997-2000
Colin Campbell, 1974-76, 1977-79
John Cullen, 1988-91, 1994-95
Dave Hannan, 1981-88, 1988-89
Denis Herron, 1973-75, 1976-79, 1982-86
Chris Joseph, 1987, 1995-96
Steve McKenna, 2001, 2002-04
Shawn McEachern, 1991-93, 1994-95
Marty McSorley, 1983-85, 1993-94
Joe Mullen, 1990-95, 1996-97
Bob Paradise, 1973-75, 1977-79
Dan Quinn, 1986-90, 1996
Mark Recchi, 1988-92, 2005-06, 2006-07
Roberto Romano, 1982-87, 1993-94
Kevin Stevens, 1987-95, 2001
Martin Straka, 1992-95, 1997-2003
Peter Taglianetti, 1990-92, 1993-95
Warren Young, 1983-85, 1986-88
Wendell Young, 1988-92, 1995
Blazing a trail
Richard Park was the NHL's second Korean-born player.
The first was Jim Paek, a defenseman drafted by the Penguins in 1985. Paek played 170 games for the Penguins from 1990-94.