The NHL trade deadline is March 5th but for Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero it might as well be December 25th. Shero has made more magic via trades than Doctor Strange and Harry Potter combined on anything else. Last year's acquisitions of Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Doug Murray for nothing (okay, some draft picks and prospects) were drops from his bucket of greatness. Even though the deals did not translate into a Stanley Cup, they were reminds that Ray Shero is the type of general manager who will never stop improving his team.
And these 2013-2014 Penguins need a little improving. The trouble areas for ask? Well, Brandon Sutter would give up the deed to his house and include a year of free maid service for a pair of wingers that will stay with him for more than five games. With the absurd amount of injuries the Pens have suffered, the third line has had no chance to develop anything close to chemistry (no matter the player combos). Building a strong (heck, they'll settle for above-meek) third line is the Penguins most important need.
Guys like Lee Stempniak (Calgary Flames), Marcel Goc (Florida Panthers), Sam Gagner and Alex Hemsky (both from the Edmonton Oilers) are not household names but very dependable third line players. The cool thing about them is they are on clubs who have eyes toward rebuilding. That means the asking price for each will not be steep. Alex Hemsky has speed. Nasty speed. The Penguins love speed. Stempniak is a natural leader and not afraid to voice his opinions. Leadership like that helps teams go far into the playoffs. Plus, he's a good two-way forward. The Penguins should call about those guys first.
Then there's that gapping sinkhole on the right side of the first line. Brian Gibbons has been solid there, but he is not a permanent solution to the Pascal Dupuis problem. At least not yet. Beau Bennett is about a month away from returning to the ice and another two or three weeks after that to get back into game shape. So he's not a reliable option either. How long has Sidney Crosby been wanting/needing a winger for his line? Serious, it's kind of frustratingly funny to think about. Shero thought he had found one in Marian Hossa, but we all know how that story went.
With Shero's penchant for blockbuster deals, do not be surprised if the Pens land one of these three guys; Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson, and/or Ryan Callahan. Vanek and Moulson have been dealt already this season and with their current circumstances, they might be moved again. The Islanders were hoping Vanek would stay with them, but he's told them differently. The Buffalo Sabres are the worst team in the NHL and need prospects and draft picks like a BLT needs bacon. Moulson and goalie Ryan Miller will fetch a ton of each. The New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan are working towards a new contract, but if they two cannot find common ground than the Rangers will look to get something for their captain.
The most possible of these three is Matt Moulson. The Penguins can offer the Sabres more top-shelf prospects than anyone else. Vanek is too expensive even for a rental and Callahan will most likely resign with the Blueshirts. But as the Hossa Tale has taught us, getting a player is one thing. Keeping him another. Mouslon is a free agent at the end of the year. File that away.
Is it March 5th yet?
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