The Pittsburgh Penguins already possess the reigning NHL MVP in Evgeni Malkin and one of the league's brightest young stars in Sidney Crosby. However, if the Penguins want to hoist the Stanley Cup again in 2013 like they did in 2009, then Pittsburgh needs to add at least one more piece to their championship puzzle.
One week after trading center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Penguins are reportedly set to make an aggressive push at two of the marquee free agents in this year's market.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Sunday that the team will make a play for both Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise using the salary cap space freed up in the Staal deal.
According to the report, the team is also actively shopping defenseman Paul Martin, set to make $15 million over the next three years, in an effort to free up even more cabbage that can then be thrown at Suter and Parise.
In Suter, who scored 46 points for the Predators last year, the team would get a top-line defenseman in the prime of his career to pair with Kris Letang.
Defense is actually a strong point for the Penguins as an organization after spending four picks in the first two rounds of the last two NHL drafts on the position. This gives the Penguins assets to include in a trade for a defenseman to pair with Letang, whether it's a conditional deal with Carolina for the rights to Suter or to another team.
In Parise, who just captained the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals on the heels of a 31-goal, 69-point 2011-2012 campaign, the team would garner additional scoring punch that, combined with Crosby with Malkin, would give Pittsburgh quite possibly the most dangerous trio of young forwards in the NHL.
There will no doubt be heavy competition for Parise's services. According to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Minnesota Wild are reportedly expected to pursue both Parise and Suter as well, and the Wild are believed to be set to throw a large, front-loaded contract at the 27-year-old from Minneapolis.
However, the Penguins can offer these players the chance to play with a solid young nucleus of Crosby, Letang, Malkin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, as well as the chance (unlike the Wild) to be competitive right away. In addition, the team has an ace up their sleeve of sorts with Parise, as he and Crosby are close friends.
The bidding for the services of both players is apt to be fierce. Given that such teams as the Detroit Red Wings are also expected to be involved in the bidding, it may be wishful thinking for Penguins fans to believe that they can land both young stars, especially when taking into consideration that their current clubs would very much like to keep them.
With that said, after a rocky stretch following their Stanley Cup win that included Crosby missing over 100 games over the past two seasons, there's reason for Pittsburgh supporters to be hopeful.
Not only does their team have a great young foundation, but if they can add to it with either Ryan Suter or Zach Parise then the Pittsburgh Penguins may well be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference next season.