5 Trade Deadline Takeaways for the Pittsburgh Penguins
With the NHL's annual trade deadline now past, NHL general managers, coaches, players and fans alike can all focus on reality instead of rumors and look ahead to the remainder of the regular season and the start of playoffs.
For Penguins fans in particular, the trade deadline has proven to be even more significant since Ray Shero became the general manager in 2006, as his always shrewd and sometimes dramatic moves have put the Pens in the spotlight this time of year seemingly every year.
While everyone may have their own opinion as to who the winners and losers were this year, let's look at five takeaways for the Pittsburgh Penguins on what proved to be another dramatic NHL trade-deadline day.
Needs Were Addressed
While some of his trade deadline deals have involved the biggest names available, Ray Shero's goal, year in and year out, has been to address needs rather than to make headlines.
Given where the Pens stand and based on the early returns, it appears as though he has done just that in the acquisitions of Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers and Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames.
Having lost the speedy and versatile Pascal Dupuis for the season, Shero needed to fill the void created on the Pens' first line, and Goc's ability to play both center and wing allows the Pens to potentially fill that hole with Brandon Sutter or Evgeni Malkin depending on the situation.
After losing all three members of what had been the best third line in the NHL in Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke over the past two seasons, Shero recognized the need for more speed and offensive ability on the wings, especially among the bottom-six forwards, and Stempniak brings both with him to Pittsburgh.
Throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, Ray Shero has proven to be both willing and able to make any deal, whether it involves big names or role players, if it moves his team closer to winning the Stanley Cup, and this year was no different.
There Was More Smoke Than Fire
Considering his penchant for making blockbuster trades, Ray Shero is naturally going to be expected to chase the biggest names at the trade deadline every year, and this year was no exception.
Having been linked to high-priced impending UFA's Thomas Vanek, David Legwand, Matt Moulson and Ales Hemsky, Shero was instead focused on second-tier trade candidates who could fill needs this year and possibly beyond.
While he made no secret of his pursuit of Ryan Kesler (which will continue), Shero again showed both patience and decisiveness by identifying his targets and then waiting for the prices to come down before moving.
While only time will tell whether the addition of Goc and Stempniak will make the Pens a better team down the stretch and into the postseason, Pens fans should once again be grateful to have a general manager who is focused on making the right deal instead of always having to make the big deal.
The Cost Was Minimal
When it comes to trading players, you can't get something for nothing despite what some fans might think.
Fortunately for the Pens, while they were able to gain some valuable assets, they only had to deal away a third- and fifth-round pick this year and a third-round pick next year, which, for a team built to win now, is an enviable position to be in.
Having already dealt away their second-round pick in this year's draft as part of the Douglas Murray deal last year, the Pens still retain picks in the first, fourth, fifth (acquired from Anaheim for Ben Lovejoy last season), sixth and seventh rounds in this year's draft.
Although some might equate trading away draft picks to mortgaging the franchise's future, history has shown (as the graph depicts) that late-round picks are almost as likely to make it to the NHL as early-round picks are.
While it's very likely the Pens' first-round pick will be packaged as part of Ray Shero's anticipated offer to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler this summer, the Pens will still have enough prospective talent and draft picks to stay competitive for the foreseeable future.
New Year, New Strategy
While the Penguins' level of activity at this year's trade deadline was similar to years past, the type of players they targeted was different this time.
Having acquired Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jarome Iginla last year as well as George Laraque, Gary Roberts, Hal Gill and Bill Guerin in previous seasons, Ray Shero has had a habit of chasing size and grit at the deadline.
This year, however, speed and versatility seem to have been the focus, as both Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak have the ability to play on any line and in any capacity needed, which gives the coaching staff a lot more lineup options.
Perhaps learning a lesson from last season's moves, which made the Pens bigger but slower, this year's team, even without Pascal Dupuis, figures to be a faster one top to bottom, which should allow them to forecheck more aggressively.
With Dupuis out for the season and Kris Letang's return this year in doubt, the Pens needed to offset the loss of talent, and the speed and versatility Shero's latest acquisitions bring might do just that.
Ray Shero's Pursuit of Ryan Kesler Will Continue
Although the much-rumored "Ryan Kesler to the Pens" trade didn't happen, two facts remain: Ryan Kesler wants out of Vancouver and Ray Shero wants to bring him to Pittsburgh.
While a lot of Pens fans worry that adding another top-six center would be both positional overkill and financially prohibitive, Kesler's versatility, speed and price tag would make him a great fit for the Pens.
For those who argue the Pens need help on the wings instead of at center, the fact is that the Pens won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with only one winger (Petr Sykora) reaching the 20-goal plateau.
By comparison, this year's Pens already have two wingers with 20 or more goals in James Neal and Chris Kunitz with Jussi Jokinen on pace to reach the mark as well.
With Kesler's price tag reported to be a young top-six center, a top prospect and a first-round pick, the Pens are well positioned to make this deal happen with Brandon Sutter, either Brian Dumoulin or Simon Despres and a first-round pick as the only offer on the table from any team.
Regardless of the outcome of this season, expect Ray Shero to make another run at Kesler at the NHL entry draft this summer when he will have more assets at his disposal and the Canucks management, having weathered the fallout from the Roberto Luongo trade, are much more likely to make the deal.