The Pittsburgh Penguins are banged up beyond belief. The good news is that even though in pain, James Neal and Craig Adams hope to return tonight against the Sens while Kris Letang continues to skate.
This does not mean that the Pens are out of the woods, though. Missing both Staal and Crosby will hurt the Penguins in the scoring department. Even more dangerous, Staal was one of the best penalty killing players in the league, and losing him for an extended period could jeopardize one of the biggest advantages Pittsburgh has.
There have been calls for Ray Shero to make a move already. However, it is more than likely that he will wait before pulling the trigger on any moves. If the walking wounded of the Pens cannot play competitive hockey, Shero's hand will be forced and he will have to trade to maintain playoff contention.
With that in mind, here are three names that have popped up in conjunction with the Penguins that could be safe trade bets for Shero. These are players who not only provide a need for Pittsburgh, but also would be easy to acquire and do not require all of the Penguins $5 million cap space.
The Penguins have had great luck when grabbing older, gritty players at the deadline. Bill Guerin and Garry Roberts were huge successes for Ray Shero, so why not try it for one more time?
Eric Belanger is not doing too much for Edmonton this season and would be perfect to alleviate Pascal Dupuis of his center duties, where he is projected to play tonight.
While Belanger's number may not be eye-opening (one goal, nine assists, -8) he not only fills a current need for the Pens, but also would come cheap.
Belanger's contract is only for $1.75 million, but the Pens would be locked into it for the next two years. While this situation is probably less than ideal for Shero, Belanger's experience and off-ice persona may be what the Pens need to weather this storm.
Say that for whatever reason Belanger does not want to come to Pittsburgh. Fair enough, but it does not mean that Shero should stop dealing with Edmonton.
Multiple sources, the most credible being ESPN, have said that Hemsky would be a target for Pittsburgh and Shero. While Hemsky creates the biggest cap hit of all the players on this list with $4.1 million, he would surely provide scoring for Pittsburgh.
A scoring option off the wings is something the Pens would love to have with or without Staal, Neal, Letang and all of the injured crew. Even though he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Hemsky may be convinced to stay in Pittsburgh if the Pens pull of a decent Cup run.
The issue with Hemsky is the price: a young defenseman. This would mean giving up a better end prospec,t and with the continual injuries to Letang, Matt Niskanen and Zbynek Michalek, Shero would hold on to Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engallend, two players the Oilers would surely want.
Hemsky's the long shot of the three, but provides the best upside and potential for success.
Penguins fans may remember the scrappy style and success of this player's brother in Pittsburgh years ago. Jarkko Ruutu was an enforcer for the Pens who had success in the city and going after his brother may be in Shero's plan.
Tuomo Ruutu brings both scoring and grit to a club, traits Blysma loves in his players. Ruutu's cap hit would be about 3.8 million and the sagging Hurricanes may want to deal Ruutu because of his impending contract extension.
As Craig Custance of ESPN reports, Ruutu should more than likely be able to hit the free agency market and make far more than if he accepts whatever Carolina offers him. On pace for 27 goals, he is third on the team with 23 points.
Though the Pens would probably only see Ruutu suit up for them this season, he should be easy to acquire and bring a shot in the arm to an ailing Pens team.