For the first time in a few seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't go nuts at the trade deadline. Instead of loading up on top-end players—think Jarome Iginla or Marian Hossa—general manager Ray Shero took a more measured approach and added a pair of depth players in Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak.
They've played in six contests since the March 5 deadline, and seem to be settling into their new roles nicely. Learning new systems on the fly is never easy, and the Penguins' schedule hasn't left much time to squeeze in practices.
Pittsburgh played back-to-back games on March 6 and 7, did so again on March 10 and 11 and just wrapped up a two-day, home-and-home series against the Philadelphia Flyers this weekend. Despite the tough travel schedule and sequence of games, Goc and Stempniak are already showing their value for the Penguins.
While Stempniak doesn't have the same name recognition or star power as Tomas Vanek or Matt Moulson, he's out-produced those two since the deadline. Vanek has managed one assist in four games for the Montreal Canadiens, while Moulson has two points in five games played for the Minnesota Wild.
The former Calgary Flame has tallied three assists for the Penguins so far. No one should expect him to continue to outpace players like Vanek, but it does indicate that Shero made a shrewd addition when he traded for the forward.
Stempniak isn't likely to be able to match Pascal Dupuis' output, but he has filled in admirably on Pittsburgh's top line. An uninformed observer might casually claim that playing with Sidney Crosby is an easy job and that anyone can do it, but that simply isn't the case.
No. 87 works well with some forwards and doesn't mesh with others, just like every other pivot in the NHL. So far, Stempniak seems to be gelling on Pittsburgh's new-look top line. According to Dobber hockey's Frozen Pool line tracker, he's played with Crosby and Chris Kunitz for 42.86 percent of his five-on-five shifts.
Matthew Stajan was Stempniak's most frequent center in Calgary, so this is a chance for him to show what he can do with a more elite pivot heading into free agency this summer.
Goc has put up a single assist for the Penguins so far, but he wasn't brought in to do more than stabilize a bottom-six group that has been changed around frequently this season. He's fit in well on a hard-working line alongside Tanner Glass and Craig Adams and has also been rolled out as a member of the penalty kill.
He averaged more than two minutes on the penalty kill with the Florida Panthers, and that won't change in Pittsburgh. The 30-year-old isn't necessarily a defensive dynamo, but he's solid in the faceoff circle and has seemingly earned head coach Dan Bylsma's confidence.
Goc, Glass and Adams are three of the bottom four players for the Penguins when it comes to offensive-zone starts according to BehindTheNet.ca, which means that they are being utilized primarily in a defensive role. The former Panther is a sound No. 4 center and gives Pittsburgh outstanding depth down the middle.
Both players bring a great deal of versatility, which has been evident through their first few games as Penguins. While Shero didn't land a big fish like Vanek, the two forwards whom he did add have been able to do the jobs that they were brought to Pittsburgh to do.
According to Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Shero had this to say following the trade deadline: "...our goal was to increase our forward depth up front and help our forward group. I think we've accomplished that and not touched anybody off our roster."
That mission appears to be accomplished, as neither Goc nor Stempniak has looked out of place in Pittsburgh early on in their tenures.