Report Card for Pittsburgh Penguins' 2014 Trade Deadline Decisions
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were relatively quiet compared to how busy they were last year. The team mostly stayed the course with the roster that they have in place, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you see this team shaking out over the next few weeks as they get healthy.
Despite a widespread false Twitter rumor, Pittsburgh did not acquire Ryan Kesler, but they did manage to add to their forward depth without selling off any of their young assets.
After general manager Ray Shero moved multiple picks and prospects last season, it wasn't too surprising to see him reluctant to shell out any more futures for rentals. The Penguins addressed the need of depth at forward and didn't have to move a guy like Simon Despres to get it done.
Not Overpaying for Ryan Kesler
It might not be the most popular choice in Pittsburgh, but the Vancouver Canucks had a high asking price for Ryan Kesler that seemed to elevate as the trade deadline loomed. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently reported that the Penguins made the following offer for Kesler:
Shero inquired about Kesler in January and last week proposed sending center Brandon Sutter, a first- and third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and defensemen Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin in exchange for Kesler.
According to Rossi, Pittsburgh was eventually willing to part with Derrick Pouliot as part of the deal as well. As solid as Kesler is and as excellent as it would have been to return to the three top-end center system, that cost was simply too high for Shero.
He was wise for backing away from this one. Gutting the system for an oft-injured center whose best days are behind him just wouldn't have been good for the future of the franchise. While the center they eventually traded for doesn't have Kesler's big name, he does fill Pittsburgh's biggest need.
Grading the Decision: A
Dealing for Marcel Goc
Marcel Goc wasn't Shero's No. 1 trade target, but he's a solid plan B. He doesn't fit in on Pittsburgh's top two lines, which raises some questions about where the ex-Florida Panther will line up. Brandon Sutter seems to have the third-line center spot locked down.
Does that mean that Goc is destined for a role on the fourth line? Or could the Penguins be open to experimenting with the 30-year-old on the wings? He's a versatile forward that was underappreciated in Florida, but will really have a chance to shine on a strong Penguins team.
While Pittsburgh needed to add to their scoring depth, the cost of a fifth-round pick and a third-round pick seems a bit high. Ales Hemsky was moved for the same thing and is a better scoring option.
Grading the Decision: B-
Hanging onto Simon Despres
As valuable as Sutter was as a trade chip, Simon Despres was the real centerpiece of the proposed deal for Kesler. Drafted with the 30th-overall selection in 2009, the 6'4", 205-pound defender has been developing for the Penguins for the better part of five years.
Through the last three seasons, Despres has bounced between the NHL and AHL, playing a depth role in Pittsburgh while skating as a go-to option in Wilkes Barre/Scranton. While he hasn't scored a goal in 20 NHL games this year, he's compiled 37 points in 34 contests in the minor league.
At 22-years-old, Despres is just now starting to blossom into a strong puck-moving defender. Players like him are among the most heavily coveted in the NHL, and hanging onto him was the right thing to do for Shero and this team.
Grading the Decision: A+
Acquiring Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames
The quest for more scoring depth came to a close more than 90 minutes after the deadline had passed. Shero was able to squeeze in a last-minute deal, acquiring Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames for a third-round draft pick.
This addition doesn't make a big splash like adding Kesler would have, but coupled with the addition of Goc, the Penguins addressed the biggest issue that the roster had. While injuries have created temporary holes on the blue line and on Sidney Crosby's line, the issue that has plagued Pittsburgh throughout the season has been scoring depth.
In Stempniak, Pittsburgh receives a player that could potentially skate alongside No. 87 until Pascal Dupuis or Beau Bennett are ready to return. The 31-year-old has a career high of 19 goals, so he can finish if he has a strong center.
Grading the Decision: A, as long as he clicks with Crosby
Leading up to the deadline, some fans and pundits seemed pretty sure that Kesler was going to be headed to Pittsburgh. If that was expected, then the two moves that the Penguins made might seem like a disappointment.
That shouldn't be the case, however.
Shero was able to improve his roster without giving away a single player—something that should be considered a victory since there were so many rumors circulating about Despres or Pouliot getting shipped out for a veteran player.
Pittsburgh also managed to maintain all of their first-and-second round selections that they still had after last year's deadline, giving up mid-round selections to bring in Goc and Stempniak. Neither name is particularly flashy, but the cost was relatively low and the Penguins vastly improved a bottom-six that has struggled to produce all season long.
Final Trade Deadline Grade: An underwhelming but solid "A"