NHL Trade Deadline: What Should the Pittsburgh Penguins Do?
Ray Shero is not afraid to make a move or two to try to put his team over the top.
Last year, Shero traded for Bill Guerin and the Pittsburgh Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup, making the gamble worthwhile.
This year, after a strong start, the Penguins have been playing mediocre hockey for what amounts to almost half a season.
Sitting 14 points back of rival Washington, the Penguins aren't going to catch the Capitals in the regular season.
If they hope to beat them in the playoffs, it seems an upgrade or shakeup is in order to get the team back to the level it played at during last year's playoff chase and Cup run.
The biggest need is a winger to play with Sidney Crosby. Minnesota's Owen Nolan would fit the bill perfectly. Nolan plays a physical style that will create loose pucks for Crosby, and he finishes scoring chances. The ornery Nolan's presence on the ice might also make potential playoff opponents (see Philadelphia Flyers) think twice about taking liberties on Crosby.
Nolan could probably be obtained for a 2nd round pick and a medium grade prospect.
In order to create cap room for Nolan, I would move Ruslan Fedotenko. In the past, Rusty chipped in nicely for the Penguins. But this year he has not met expectations, and has by far the worst plus-minus on the team. He doesn't seem to fit in well with a team that thrives off team speed.
Perhaps a playoff-hopeful team like Calgary would be looking for some offensive depth and grit in the form of Fedotenko, and he should fetch at least a 4th round pick in return.
The biggest move I would make is on defense. The Capitals have outscored the Penguins by more than 50 goals as it is, and with Sergei Gonchar injury-prone and headed for free agency, I believe now is the time to address a likely impending need.
I would make available talented young defenseman Kris Letang and a 1st round draft choice to Toronto for perennial all-star Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle has a no-trade clause, but would surely waive it to leave a woeful Maple Leaf team to come to the defending champs with a great chance to win the Cup.
In order to make it work salary cap wise, I would throw in Mark Eaton and his $2 million salary, and ask the Leafs for a 4th round choice coming back.
Lastly, in order to avoid putting Martin Skoula in the starting lineup, I would claim Brendan Witt off re-entry waivers. Witt is more reliable defensively, more physical, and can play at times in such a way that he is a thorn in an opposing star's side.
He would do better to complement the several offensive puck-moving defensemen the Pens already have, unlike Skoula.
With Kaberle, Nolan and Witt added to the roster, I believe the Penguins would be in ideal shape to make a run at a second consecutive Stanley Cup, to match their repeat performance of 1991 & 1992.
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