By now everyone has analyzed and overanalyzed the pitiful free agent market and come up with creative scenarios for how to lure Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash to Pittsburgh. I don't envy Ray Shero right now, who did the best he could to bring in game-changers Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but now is left having to pursue a cast of veterans and enigmas.
The most commonly floated options since the Parise fallout have been Shane Doan and Alex Semin. Both are somewhat controversial in Pittsburgh, but few can deny they are the only remaining players who would constitute an upgrade over the current in-house options. Shero, like most of the rest of the NHL, seems to be waiting for a response from Doan, who is seen by most as the better fit for Pittsburgh. However, after the jump I argue that Shero needs to rethink this strategy ASAP.
I don't disagree that Doan would be a great addition to Pittsburgh. He brings several elements that the Pens seemed to be lacking somewhat as the season went on: physicality, nastiness, and leadership. But it's no secret that there's almost no way Doan leaves Phoenix at this point. Even if he chooses to move on, some team was willing to offer 4 years at over 7M PER YEAR, when the Pens shouldn't go more than 2 years, 5M. It's also likely that as soon as Doan signs, Semin's price will skyrocket as teams finally see no other good options left. If Shero misses out on Doan AND Semin, then it's very possible that TK could be skating with Sid next year. That is really not an acceptable option, whatever Shero might say to placate the fans. Sid hasn't exactly had all-star linemates since Hossa, but Dupuis and TK would be his weakest linemates since the days of Colby Armstrong. Bennett has tons of potential and might be ready next year, but the odds that he's ready for 1st line duty right now are slim to none.
So unless Shero wants to risk that situation, he needs to bite the bullet and go after Semin for a 1 year, $5-6M contract. There have been enough articles analyzing his actual performance over the last few years to dispel the notion that he's a "coach killer" in my mind, even if he'll never be the physical force or the leader Doan is. Signing him for a year is barely a risk and could pan out well. And they might even be able to package him with other players later in the year to net a winger that fits the season more.
However, if Shero is really opposed to Semin, or if the price is really too high, it's time to turn to options nobody has mentioned for a while. Mike Colligan mentioned Chris Stewart a while back as a possibly mutually beneficial trade for the Pens and Blues. He mentioned Paul Martin as part of a possible trade, although I'm not sure that trading Martin is an option anymore with our weakened D. Everyone has been trying to find ways to package our middling players for a payout, but Stewart may just be a player that could work with, given that Blues fans seem to regard him much the way we regard TK right now. Strait and Bortuzzo are definitely 5/6 D right now, and could be capable of top 4 D on a team with a good defensive system like St. Louis. TK and/or Tangradi could better and more cheaply fill the 3rd/4th line role that Stewart is currently filling on the team, and the Penguins could also send a 2nd or 3rd rd pick to the Blues. No guarantee that's enough to land him, but he's hardly as coveted as Nash or Ryan. Another option is Ales Hemsky, but every time his name is mentioned in connection with the Penguins, it turns out to be nothing, so I doubt there's reason to hope there either.
The point is, in the past Sid could have used a winger but didn't "need" a winger. With the departure of Sullivan (which I STILL can't figure out why Shero let him go when he and Duper had such chemistry), the Penguins now actually need a winger for him. So Mr. Shero, it's time to bail on Doan and work on your other options while there's still time.