The Pittsburgh Penguins tried to get a jump on the rest of the NHL by strengthening their roster through two trades this week. With the trade deadline set for April 3rd, Penguins management made sure they set the market for their competitors instead of having it dictated to them.
With the early addition of Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars, the Penguins made sure they added one of the top forwards available.
Morrow's production may have slipped some, but he brings leadership, effort and experience with him every night. Though he may not fill up the stat sheet the way he used to, he can still put up valuable points and has all the intangibles needed to provide the kind of value the scoresheet does not measure.
The second addition of San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray is less heralded, but will be just as important. Adding a veteran defender who is physical and does all the little things is huge.
Murray was leading the Sharks in blocked shots and hits before the trade. He will be a valuable piece to plug into the penalty kill and his size and strength will be useful in clearing the front of the net.
Depth, experience and production were added, but as with most trades, there was a cost.
The Penguins had to part with talented prospect Joe Morrow and a fifth-round pick in the Brenden Morrow trade. Murray came at the cost of a second-rounder in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014.
While fans can argue whether the Morrow-for-Morrow trade was a win, loss or draw for the Penguins, the final judgment may not be apparent for a few years.
The key is the Penguins dealt for Brenden Morrow from an area of strength. With several young talents on the blue line, Pittsburgh could afford to move a former first-round pick. If it leads to another cup lifted in Pittsburgh, then it will have been worth the cost.
Acquiring players you target, even if the cost was higher than some would like, is better than missing out on them and an opportunity to claim the ultimate prize.
Another aspect to these trades is that the Penguins potentially set the price and direction of the market. By striking early, Pittsburgh ensured that it got pieces it wanted rather than reaching for the leftovers near the deadline. Its competitors are now forced to make moves on par or of greater magnitude in the market or be left behind.
When forced into action, teams can reach or drastically overpay in an effort to fill a need. As more players come off the market, the rising cost effect becomes greater.
The other advantage to striking early is giving the additions more time to integrate with their new surroundings. This is more important with the shortened season causing the deadline to be pushed back much closer to the start of the playoffs.
Having an extra week of practices and two or three more games to get acclimated can make all the difference in the understanding between players that is required to be an effective unit.
The Penguins may not have acquired the top available players, but what they did get were players of excellent value who were close to the top of the available market. They are players who fit the Penguins' system and fill a need. Their absence from the market thins out an already small pool of available players going into the trade deadline.
The Penguins still may have another move in the works, but even if they stand pat with their current roster, they are still in great shape. On paper, these two moves made plenty of sense and ensured the Penguins would be viewed as one of the winners of the deadline deals.
Over the next week, the impact of these moves on how the rest of the player movement shakes out will become more apparent.