The Pittsburgh Penguins appear poised to make a deep playoff run, with or without their captain Sidney Crosby. Of course, the preference would be to have Crosby on board for the postseason, but they will be a formidable opponent either way.
However, as with every team, the Penguins’ roster could use some tweaking prior to Monday’s trade deadline.
Penguins management will have to be predictors of the future as to whether Crosby will return before the end of the regular season. If he does, the Penguins have very little room to work with under the salary cap.
If Crosby does not return by season’s end or waits until the playoffs to return, then the Penguins will have his $8.7 million cap hit to work with. Given the fact that there is no salary cap in the playoffs, the Penguins could conceivably go out and acquire Jarome Iginla and his $7 million salary and then have Crosby come back in game one of the playoffs and not have to worry about any salary cap implications.
The salary cap implications would come next season when the Penguins would be on the hook for $7 million for the final year of Iginla’s contract, which would put them well over the cap.
The scenario outlined above is rather unlikely for the Penguins, however. The more likely action that Penguins management will take at the trade deadline will be the acquisition of a veteran forward with some scoring ability; a rent-a-player type of deal.
Some players that might fit this mold include Ryan Smythe of the Oilers, Milan Hejduk from Colorado or Vinny Prospal from Columbus. There’s been some speculation that Teemu Selanne could be a player of interest for the Penguins, given the fact the Selanne and head coach Dan Bylsma were teammates in Anaheim, but it seems unlikely that Selanne will waive his no-trade clause.
Although Paul Martin has been playing better of late, it is no secret that the Penguins would like to trade him and his $5 million cap hit, but with three more seasons at $5 million per, it is going to be hard to find a team willing to take on that monetary commitment.
The Penguins are extremely deep on defense and can afford to trade a defenseman without worrying about depleting their defensive corps. Ben Lovejoy, a healthy scratch on most nights, would easily be a top-four defenseman on many NHL teams.
The Penguins also have several talented up-and-coming defensive prospects including Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson, son of former Penguin Ulf Samuelsson.
The play of backup netminder Brent Johnson has been suspect this season, posting a record of (3-7-2) and being pulled on several occasions. Despite these less-than-stellar statistics, it seems unlikely that the Penguins will make a move to bolster the back-up goaltender role.
Johnson is very well-liked in the locker room and has been a very capable backup for the Penguins in the past. He won an impressive 13 games last season.
There is no question who the No. 1 goalie is in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins are unlikely to trade any valuable assets to get a backup for Fleury. Even if management decides to move away from Johnson, Brad Thiessen is the Penguins’ very talented AHL netminder who was the Eastern Conference’s starting goaltender for the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic.
When the trade deadline comes and goes on Monday there may be several blockbuster moves across the NHL. However, don’t look for the Penguins to be a part of them.
While anything can happen at the trade deadline, Penguins GM Ray Shero has assembled a team that already looks like a well-oiled machine—a well-oiled machine that needs little more than some fine tuning.