Pittsburgh has tried many combinations with Crosby. Bill Guerin, Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Comrie, they’ve all lined up alongside the best player in the world. Crosby has had a few short dalliances with fellow super-stud Evgeni Malkin as well, but the two natural centers will never truly bring out the best in each other.
The Penguins are still left searching for the perfect (and attainable) foil for their all-world captain.
Jarome Iginla is widely regarded as one of the good guys in the NHL. Unfortunately, his Calgary Flames are not widely regarded as one of the good teams in the NHL.
The Flames nearly sneaked into the Western Conference playoffs in 2010, but realistically, Calgary won’t be hosting any Stanley Cup Finals games in the next few years. With his tank creeping toward empty, Iginla likely won’t have a shot at a Cup in Calgary.
If the team decides to do right by Iginla and move him to a contender, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be a perfect trading partner. Pittsburgh would have to sacrifice Jordan Staal (at least), but it would be well worth that price to acquire one of the most accomplished and consistent scorers in the league.
Iginla scored 42 goals last year and has chipped in at least 30 in ten consecutive seasons. He is exactly the type of sniper that could benefit from Crosby’s incredible vision and passing ability. On top of his scoring, Iginla would bring size and toughness to complement the speed and agility that the Penguins already possess.
Ilya Kovalchuk was stifled in his first year as a member of the New Jersey Devils. Coming from a free-wheeling system in Atlanta, Kovalchuck struggled to adjust to the structure imposed by the Devils. In 81 games last season he scored 31 goals, exactly the same amount he scored in his last 49 games in Atlanta.
If the status quo persists in New Jersey, it’s not possible for Kovalchuk to deliver on the value promised by his mammoth contract. For Kovalchuk and the Devils to proceed happily, he’ll need to find a new team. The Pittsburgh Penguins could dangle a few pieces that might entice New Jersey to alter Kovalchuk’s situation.
Alongside Sidney Crosby, Kovalchuk would flourish. Even as he posted five seasons with 41 goals or more in Atlanta, Kovalchuk never had a set-up man near the caliber of Crosby. In the Penguin’s more flexible system, and with Crosby at his side, 60 goals would be absolutely attainable.
Martin Havlat is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, bundled in the guise of a bearded Czech. The oft-injured winger has shown plenty of scoring ability, but its always been masked by maddening inconsistency. Yet, in the few instances when a healthy season has coincided with a spot on an elite offensive team, Havlat has responded.
Though it’s nearly impossible to predict a player’s injury future, Havlat has enjoyed better health recently, playing more total games in the last three seasons than in any three-year stretch in his career.
Havlat has already bounced around between more than a few teams in the NHL career. The San Jose Sharks gave up Dany Heatley to grab him this off-season, but I still believe that he could be plucked away to Pittsburgh for a reasonable price.
A healthy Havlat paired with a healthy Sidney Crosby could be a devastating pairing for the Penguins. Havlat’s combination of rink-stretching speed and deft scoring touch would be an excellent complement to Crosby.
Cal Clutterbuck is more than just a tough guy with a goofy last name and one hell of a mustache. He’ll never be an elite scorer, but he’s improved his scoring output in each of the last four years. Clutterbuck isn’t a star, but he can raise his level of play to that of the players around him. Given the right opportunity in the right situation, he could chip in 30 goals.
Sidney Crosby is the perfect player to give him that opportunity.
Given Crosby’s dicey injury history, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ foremost concern must be protecting their young uber-star.
Clutterbuck has the combination of toughness and touch to be a kind of Marty McSorley to Crosby’s Wayne Gretzky. Clutterbuck can be Crosby’s bodyguard on the ice without dragging down the skill level of his line. At just 23 years old, he could develop right alongside Crosby and eventually mature into an effective power forward.
Plus, what team doesn’t need a good mustache?