The All-Star break is over and now begins anticipation for the next major date in the Pittsburgh Penguins' season—waiting to see which star player will be injured next.
That, and the trade deadline.
The Penguins have accrued a little cap space over the course of the season by seeing most of their top-dollar players spend time on injured reserve. They lead the league in man-games lost to injury at 256.
CapGeek currently gives the Penguins $5.165 million in acquirable cap space for the remainder of the season, a number that will increase every day until the trade deadline with a number of players on long-term injured reserve.
Monetary considerations determine how most buyers handle the deadline. For the Pens, injuries to their big centers Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal and their projected returns will have more to do with how Pittsburgh approaches the deadline.
Of course, when Staal and (perhaps Crosby) return, that $5.1 million the Penguins have accrued from their absences will be lost for good.
The deadline hits Feb. 27 at 3:00 PM.
Given a healthy roster, the Penguins might not be making a single move this season. But having a healthy Penguins lineup seems as unlikely as seeing Zach Parise or Jarome Iginla don the black and vegas gold.
There are 25 days until the deadline. Instead of looking too far ahead to deals the Penguins may or may not swing, let's take a look back at General Manager Ray Shero's trade deadline history.
The 2007 postseason was Pittsburgh's first trip to the playoffs since 2001, and the 2007 trade deadline was Shero's first chance to hit the end of February in a buyer's position.
The Penguins entered the playoffs as the East's seventh seed that year. Shero reached the deadline intent on picking up grit and experience to help the up-and-coming team in its first playoff action.
The chief acquisition was Gary Roberts, brought in from the Florida Panthers for defenseman Noah Welch.
Welch now plays for HV71 of the Swedish Elite League.
Roberts was a fan favorite and provided a veteran presence for the still-young Penguins squad, remaining with the team through the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. He missed a considerable portion of the 2007-08 season, finishing his Penguins career with 10 goals, 28 points and 66 penalty minutes in 57 games.
Georges Laraque came over from Phoenix in exchange for Daniel Carcillo and a 2008 third-round pick. The heavyweight enforcer played 88 games for the Penguins over parts of two seasons, picking up 159 PIM and 15 points with the club.
Former Penguin Dominic Moore was shipped to Minnesota for a 2007 third-round pick, which the Pens used to draft defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.
Of the picks and players shipped away, only Moore remains in the NHL. Both Roberts and Laraque have retired, but neither were acquired with long-term hopes.
Robert Bortuzzo is the lone remaining asset from the 2007 trade deadline. Bortuzzo is a good defenseman and has seen some spot duty with the NHL club in 2011-12, but may be seen as a moveable asset given the Penguins' unreal organizational depth along the blue line.
All told, the Pens were new to the dance in 2007 and Shero made low-risk moves to acquire a couple of grit players to help to develop the growing core of the team.
The first of two straight seasons that saw the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Finals, Shero's deadline acquisitions in 2008 were enormous, and perhaps no deal in his tenure created a bigger splash than the 11th-hour trade for then-Atlanta winger Marian Hossa.
The Hossa trade was one of the very last deals to be struck at the 2008 deadline. Bringing in Hossa was a serious step up from moving fourth-liners and draft picks for enforcers and veterans.
Hossa turned out to be a rental player despite Shero's best efforts the following summer, though that available cap space allowed the Penguins leverage to re-sign defenseman Brooks Orpik and others.
Pascal Dupuis, who was part of the Hossa deal, was not a rental player. Dupuis is a prototypical Shero-Bylsma player and has made himself at home in Pittsburgh, proving a versatile spark plug in any position and capable of skating on the Crosby line.
He's now in his fifth season with the team.
The pair came from Atlanta in exchange for Angelo Esposito, Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong and a 2008 first-round pick (Daultan Leveille).
Hossa: 3G, 7A (10 points) in 12 regular season games. 12G, 14A (26 points) in 20 postseason games.
Dupuis: 60G, 82A (142 points) in 298 regular season games. 5G, 11A (16 points) in 56 postseason games.
Only Bogosian, drafted with the pick the Penguins sent to Atlanta at the time, is still with the Winnipeg franchise.
The Penguins also acquired defenseman Hal Gill from the Maple Leafs for a 2008 second-round pick and 2009 fifth-round pick. Gill remained with the Penguins through the 2009 championship and was vital playing in a shutdown pairing with Rob Scuderi.
Though Hossa turned out to be only a rental, Dupuis and Gill were vital acquisitions for which the Penguins lost relatively little in return.
Relatively quiet compared to the Hossa trade were the deals made at the 2009 deadline, when Shero acquired veteran grit in the forms of Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin and Craig Adams, though they were no less important.
In fact, each of those three are still with the Penguins in some capacity. Kunitz has been the first-line left winger for his entire tenure with the Penguins and is currently part of the hyper-productive Malkin-Neal line.
Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi were acquired from Anaheim for defenseman Ryan Whitney.
Craig Adams, a waiver claim scooped up from the Chicago Blackhawks, is a penalty kill specialist who has contributed to the Penguins having a top-five penalty kill (finished first overall in 2011, currently ranked fourth overall) in each of the last two seasons.
Bill Guerin, a veteran winger who arrived as the most playoff-experienced player on the squad, was acquired from the New York Islanders for only a conditional draft pick. Guerin retired as a Penguin last season and currently serves as Player Development Coach in the Pens' farm system.
It shouldn't be difficult to imagine Guerin as an assistant coach or team executive within the coming years.
Kunitz: 57G, 73A (130 points) in 187 RS games. 6G, 20A (26 points) in 43 playoff games.
Adams: 7G, 27A (34 points) in 222 RS games. 6G, 3A (9 points) in 44 playoff games.
Guerin: 26G, 31A (57 points) in 95 RS games. 11G, 13A (24 points) in 35 playoff games.
How impressive were the trades of the 2009 season? The Penguins acquired three forwards, each of whom they re-signed at some point—Guerin for one season in 2009-10, Adams for two years each in 2009 and 2011 and Kunitz through the 2013-14 season last summer.
Add Eric Tangradi, and the Pens have three active players and one coach still with the team.
Only backup goaltender Mathieu Garon, whom the Penguins acquired from Edmonton in 2009 for Ryan Stone, Dany Sabourin and a 2011 fourth-round pick, has moved on.
Most of the players landed in 2009 are still with the team and were integral (along with then-interim head coach Dan Bylsma) in capturing the club's first Stanley Cup in almost 20 years.
Can't win them all. The Penguins never quite cleared their heads of the Stanley Cup Hangover in 2010 despite finishing second in the Atlantic Division.
The malaise was maybe best illustrated by the acquisition of Alexei Ponikarovsky, one of the most listless scorers in the NHL today.
Ponikarovsky was dumped by the Maple Leafs during a ho-hum 2009-10 season in exchange for defenseman Martin Skoula and prospect Luca Caputi. The deal soured all around—Ponikarovsky was a non-factor in his 27 games with the Pens (3G, 11A, minus-6), and Skoula (journeyman) and Caputi (bust) failed to pan out for Toronto.
Defenseman Jordan Leopold came from Florida for a draft pick. He tallied eight points in 20 regular season games but no points and a minus-2 rating in the postseason.
Leopold was a serviceable defenseman, but couldn't help the team account for the losses of Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi, nor for the ineffectiveness of Sergei Gonchar.
Little lost, little gained. The 2010 playoffs were a bust for the Pens, who lost to Montreal in a defensively putrid seven-game series. Shero's saving grace is that he gave up virtually nothing for the players he received.
Think of 2011 as a deadline season with an eye on the future.
Ray Shero had probably resigned any legitimate expectations for a Cup run when it became clear last February that Evgeni Malkin was done for the season and Sidney Crosby was making zero progress towards a return.
Not to mention the dozen or so other forwards who fell to injuries seemingly every night.
As the deadline neared, the Penguins' need for forwards increased—if only to have enough bodies to field complete lineups in Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton each night.
As a result, Shero picked up winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen from Dallas in exchange for puck-moving defenseman Alex Goligoski. Former Penguin Alex Kovalev was reacquired from Ottawa in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
The results, last season, were horrendous.
Neal tallied only two goals in 20-plus games. Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy got torched repeatedly by Tampa Bay's forwards in the first round of the playoffs (minus-3 in seven games). Alex Kovalev developed zero chemistry alongside then-first line center Mark Letestu.
However, Neal and Niskanen were not rental acquisitions.
Now playing a line with Malkin, Neal has become an All-Star scorer. He's tied for second in the NHL with 27 goals and tied for first with 13 power play markers, and leads the league with 214 shots on goal.
Niskanen, too, has improved. He's a team-best plus-11 this year and has stepped admirably into a top-four role for most of the season as Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek have all missed considerable time.
The brilliance of the deal wasn't most apparent until Neal began scoring like a madman this season, but the trade was made with long-term considerations. Both players were signed with one year left on their deals and both will hit this offseason as restricted free agents—greatly increasing Shero's leverage at the bargaining table compared to UFAs.
That Shero made the two-for-one deal for Goligoski, who plays a position of incredible depth in the Pens organization, was pure gravy.
As for Kovy? There should have been little expectation for an aging winger with Letestu as his center, and the seventh-round draft pick the Pens surrendered for him made the deal a wash.
It would have been nice, though, to see what Kovalev could be doing alongside fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin this season.
The trades didn't pan out last season, but expectations were reserved for this year.
The Penguins are tight against the cap and waiting on their injured centers to return to the lineup. How will that affect their trade status over the next 25 days?
For one thing, the team's cap space puts them in no position to buy without first freeing up some salary of their own. They currently have a payroll less than $200,000 shy of the $64.3 million salary ceiling.
Injuries and players moved to LTIR have given them the flexibility to move players up and down with Wilkes-Barre all season, but Staal's return will soak up most of the $5.1 million in space being afforded by his stay on LTIR.
As mentioned before, the Pens will only be able to reap the savings of Crosby's contract if he doesn't play another game this regular season. He can come back for the playoffs (when players aren't paid and salary cap considerations become much less intrusive), but the Penguins would have to make the decision to shut him down until that time before the deadline passes.
It's as likely that Crosby will be back before or during the playoffs as not at all this season. So long as there's a chance he'll play, shutting him down does no good—and what player could Shero nab whose production would merit shutting down 87?
Big names like Parise and others have been mentioned as on the radar. Good luck re-signing such a player this summer (while still recouping the massive assets that will have to be moved to bring in such a rental).
Shero will most likely scour the waiver wire and make one or two small deals as he did in 2009 and 2010. With Staal back in the lineup and Malkin continuing to play MVP hockey, a small deal that swings a depth defenseman for a second- or third-line NHL center isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Shero's already begun the depth acquisitions with the waiver claim of Phoenix forward Cal O'Reilly. O'Reilly is a Nashville alum (where Shero was an assistant GM) and former linemate of Steve Sullivan, and the Pens are only on the hook for about $500,000 of his salary this season.
Low-risk moves similar to O'Reilly, like Roberts, Gill and Guerin, have rewarded Shero handsomely in the past.