As in every major professional sport, important things happen all year round.
Typically, several weeks after the final game of the season, a type of draft for new top talent takes place.
Whether it is massively over-publicized and overrated like the NFL draft, or virtually non-existent like MLB's draft, new talent is something that is highly sought after to make respective teams better.
Let's look at the runner-up to this year's Stanley Cup.
What could the Pittsburgh Penguins possibly need?
They have three top-five picks in the last six years that have bolstered their team to an elite level. Now, they have no first-round pick with the acquisition of Marian Hossa.
It is rumored that they have offered Hossa a deal to the tune of $50 million over seven years. That does not leave much breathing room for their other stars.
Luckily, Sidney Crosby is tied up for a little while.
That still leaves Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and hometown boy Ryan Malone among the ones who need to win a cup next year, or the team, as it is, falls apart.
This is all assuming that Malone is re-signed for this season.
One of the biggest problems the Penguins have is their inability to hang on to role fillers and fan favorites.
They dumped Erik Christiansen and Colby Armstrong for Hossa.
If the franchise had won the Cup, no one would have second-guessed it.
Now some are starting to wonder.
If they lose Malone along with grinder Brooks Orpik, they will have lost their best young role-playing talent. Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi are coming on strong, but with Gonchar and Sydor aging, their blue line is in desperate need of leadership.
Pascal Dupuis had a very nice run in the playoffs and the Pens will surely be unable to afford him.
Malkin, Fleury and Jordan Staal will all need contract extensions within the next year.
If they have Crosby and Hossa tied up for a while, Malkin would be the final piece. Staal will more than likely get be gone, unless he has an extremely unimpressive season campaign next year.
That leaves Fleury in the middle.
The Pens have bombed in this situation in the past.
If you go back long enough, the names Lalime, Hedberg and Barasso should all ring a bell. They may only be able to afford a one or two year extension, but it may be enough to get all of them a championship.
So what do the Pens do with their lackluster picks?
There are 2 possibilities:
1) If they sign Marian Hossa, the best option would be to shop Staal and Malone in a package for a prime, edgy defenseman.
Barrett Jackman of St. Louis or John Michael-Liles of Colorado would be good choices, although the Pens do need to open up some cap room and Jackman would all, but annihilate their breathing room.
Staal and Malone could also be sent away for a mid to late first round pick, which could be used on a young, talented defenseman.
2) If they do not sign Hossa, options are all over the place.
First, they can grieve a little bit. They can use their second round draft pick to nab the best defenseman on the board.
Take that $50 million and invest it in long-term deals with Malkin and Fleury, re-sign Ryan Malone, and give Jordan Staal a one-year extension with plenty of performance incentives.
If Staal can bounce back, the fans will forget about the loss of Hossa.
Get Orpik to sign long-term.
Most importantly, conserve some of the salary cap to give Crosby a deal that will keep him in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career.
The draft is rather unimportant for the Pens and has very little repercussions. However, the first pick should definitely be used to take a young, promising defenseman.