Assuming that the Pens stay within reach of the likes of Buffalo and Florida in the next couple days, they will be both buyers and sellers at the deadline. The Pens management is put in a tough situation at this year’s deadline. In a year when Pittsburgh was supposed to make a legitimate run at the Cup, the Pens find themselves with an outside shot at making the playoffs.
In saying this, I feel as if Pittsburgh will enter the playoffs as the seventh seed in the East. This team is too good not to be a part of the postseason, especially in the much weaker Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh management has some serious decisions to make at the deadline however.
With far too much money invested in a select few players, the Pens have to address some serious issues that will face them in the coming offseason. Evgeni Malkin receives a $4.9 million pay raise for next year, Jordan Stall gets bumped from $2.2 million to $4 million, and Maxim Talbot gets a $450,000 raise for next year.
On top of this, Petr Sykora, Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan, Hal Gill, Philleppe Boucher, Mathieu Garon, and Rob Scuderi are all unrestricted free agents. To add to that, Bill Thomas and Alex Goligoski are restricted free agents.
So to summarize, the Pens need to re-sign their top scoring D-man, their 3, 4, and 6 scoring forwards, their number one penalty killing defenseman, and a backup goalie. As of right now, they have a grand total of $9 million on the cap to do so (depending on what the NHL decides to do with the cap, considering the economic climate).
Needless to say, the Pens need to dump some salary. With Goligoski likely to receive an offer sheet for Orpik-like money ($3.75 million), and Sykora probably receiving an offer around $4 million, this puts Pittsburgh management in a tough position already with five more playing spots to fill.
At the deadline, it is said that the Pens are looking to get a first line winger to play with Sidney Crosby; Jason Blake from Toronto and Marian Gaborik from Minnesota seem to be the most likely candidates. In both cases, it will provide Crosby a legit number one line winger that he has not had all year.
The Pens will be looking to dump salary as well to make their offseason go a little more smoothly. These moves could involve a number of guys: Whitney ($4 million) the Pens are realizing they have overpaid, Orpik ($3.75 million) they're also realizing they have paid too much, and finally Jordan Stall.
At $4 million a year until 2013, Jordan is not worth the money right now but will likely be worth more than his paid $4 million come 2011 and beyond. Jordan could simply be a victim of a numbers crunch that could send him to a rebuilding team, solely to free up some cap space that may allow the Pens to win now.
I have heard several rumours involving Malkin, most recently for Ilya Kovalchuk and futures, but I wouldn’t buy into any of these too much. I don’t see the Pens parting ways with either of the two top scorers in the NHL anytime soon.