With Pittsburgh Penguins star forward Jordan Staal out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, team general manager Ray Shero must make a major trade if his team is going to have a chance at advancing past the first round of the playoffs.
Staal joins a Pittsburgh injury list that already includes forwards Sidney Crosby and James Neal. Crosby is battling concussion problems and may not return this season, while Neal is out indefinitely with a broken foot.
Without three of their best players, the Penguins will struggle to secure a top six seed in the playoffs because they won't finish ahead of the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and maybe even the New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic division.
If the Penguins finish seventh or eighth in the East, they would not beat the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. Both the Bruins and Rangers have better goaltending and have more talent than the Penguins.
Shero has a few options going forward. One is he can make a major move and try to for a deep playoff run. Two, he can tough through the challenge of key players being injured and hope players like goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury step up big time.
Another option is to trade a a few of the top-tier prospects that the Penguins have in their system. The championship window for the Penguins is open right now, and while it may not be closing just yet, it's not getting any wider.
Prospects Beau Bennett, Simon Despres, Eric Tangradi, and Joe Morrow all have the potential to be good NHL players, and could be used in a package to bring an established scorer to Pittsburgh while the team deals with the injuries to Neal and Staal.
If Shero does not want to move prospects, he could make an incredibly bold move and trade Sidney Crosby.
Yes, you read that right.
Crosby's concussion issues remain a problem going forward and his current contract expires after next season. If healthy, Crosby would easily get $100 million or more from a team on the free agent market.
The Penguins would put the franchise in a really difficult spot if they gave Crosby a big new contract and he could not play because of concussions.
I would not be surprised if a team was foolish enough to really overpay to acquire Crosby from the Penguins via trade. Shero could get top NHL talent, top-tier prospects, high draft picks, or a combination of all of them for Crosby.
With all their injuries, there is a real chance the Penguins will miss the playoffs unless they make a major move.
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