So far, Mike Comrie paying off for Penguins

Fantasy hockey league drafts have been held around North America this week. I always ask NHL players whether they get pressed by their buddies at this time of year.

Imagine being Mike Comrie. No doubt his buddies want to know just how sure this Evgeni Malkin-Comrie partnership is on the eve of the NHL's regular season.

"It's funny you ask me because I've had a few text messages," Comrie told ESPN.com with a chuckle Tuesday. "But I'm not allowed to give any insider trade info, so I didn't respond."

Comrie made his fantasy case in the preseason, scoring four goals in four games, and he was a popular story angle for many blogs and national writers this week. And why not? The dude signed a one-year, $500,000 deal Sept. 3 (the league's minimum wage), and so far he's looking like the best bang for the buck among this summer's transactions.

Not that Pittsburgh had any choice. With its salary-cap space eaten up by a well-built and intelligently signed core, Penguins GM Ray Shero had pocket change left for another winger.

"Had Mike said, 'I'll play for $1.5 million,' would he be here? No," Shero told us Monday. "But when you volunteer to play for $500,000 with our cap situation, there's a lot better chance. He's been a really good fit in our room with our guys. On the ice, he's played pretty well."

Hey, if you're Comrie, do you really need that much money? He's made a good living over his decade-plus NHL career. He's married to actress/singer Hilary Duff. And his dad, Canadian furniture store mogul Bill Comrie, is apparently worth half a billion dollars.

So, after a couple of tough seasons in Long Island and his native Edmonton, Comrie looked around this summer and decided the only thing he cared about was joining a team that could win. The money was secondary.

"Yeah, a couple of years ago on Long Island, I was making $4 million," Comrie said. "Then I took a bit less [$1.25 million] to play at home in Edmonton last year. This summer, I talked to a few different teams. Once August rolled around, this was one organization that I thought I could help. I just wanted to join a team that was competitive.

So, he has arrived on Sidney Crosby's team hoping to be a piece that works.

"I've tried to fit in as well as I could here," Comrie said. "There's a great group of hockey players assembled here. There's young leadership. Being 30, hopefully I can come in and complement them."

With Jordan Staal out indefinitely, Comrie begins the season centering the second line with Malkin and Eric Tangradi. Today's NHL coaches key in on forward pairs, and the key pair here is Malkin and Comrie.

"They've really developed good chemistry,'' Rob Rossi, veteran beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, shared Wednesday. "If there's any silver lining to the Staal injury, it is that they've really found a guy that appears to be meshing with Malkin, which is not really something they had the last few years."

The Malkin-Comrie combo has been better than anyone in the Pens' front office could have hoped for.

"Right from the onset of camp, they've hit it off a little bit," Shero said. "They've played well together. We've had some good luck with those guys, so we'll see. We know it was only exhibition, but it was a good time for him to get up to speed with us and our systems. He's a smart player."

Malkin's English skills, or lack thereof, have been well-documented by us whining media types. Not an issue, Comrie said.

"He's a really good guy," Comrie said. "The language barrier might be a little bit tougher for the media. When he's around his buddies, he can communicate enough in the dressing room.

"Besides, he does most of his talking on the ice."