Penguins Trade Deadline Preview

Bruce Bennett

The Pittsburgh Penguins would probably like to make an upgrade to their team at the NHL's trading deadline next week, but three very formidable obstacles stand in their way. Find out what they are and we debate if GM Ray Shero can navigate them, or if it's even worth it.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have needs, but there are a lot of factors working against them for a trade deadline pickup.

Namely, there aren't going to be a lot of sellers. Right now, all but three teams are within three points of the last wildcard playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The West is similarly close, with all but two teams being within four points of the last playoff spot. So right now only Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary, Florida and the New York Islanders are officially dead in the water.

Secondly, there's the salary cap issue the Penguins have skirted all year. Tomas Vokoun continues to practice and make strides towards a return from a blood clot issue. Pascal Dupuis is out for the season and on long-term injured reserve. Paul Martin is out 4-6 weeks, which puts him returning at some point before the playoffs. Kris Letang's status after his stroke is unknown and a lot more up in the air. As Ray Shero admitted yesterday, it's a very complicated salary cap picture with many moving parts.

The third reason the Penguins might not be able to make any trades is the asking price. With few sellers out there, the market will be constricted. Darren Dreger from TSN reported that Buffalo's trade request for Steve Ott is a first round pick and a top prospect. If that sounds crazy, remember that checking line center Paul Gaustad got traded for a first round pick two deadlines ago. If Buffalo didn't budge on requested, say Simon Despres and a first round pick from Pittsburgh, that's probably a price the Penguins just can't pay. Whether it'd be for Ott or Matt Moulson who will be another coveted but very rare option for contenders.

However, where there is a will, there is a way. Ray Shero is no stranger to being active near the deadline, swinging deals for rental players like Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla over the years. He's also brought in players with term or team control near the deadline too, such as Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Jussi Jokinen and Matt Niskanen.

Shero's always been an active trader and has never hesitated to make a deal over the years. There have been complicated situations and delicate salary cap hurdles to face in the past, too. Shero will have some new tools to assist him - it's worth looking into to see if a team like Calgary would retain some salary on Mike Cammalleri, which would ease the cap hit that Pittsburgh would have to fit into their financials. Also, if more developments come to light for Letang's status, the team may be able to place him on LTIR and open up more space under the cap as well.

Surely Shero sees the hole Dupuis has left, and the uncertainty caused by injuries to his two most important defensemen. There are a lot of complicated moving pieces, but that's why they pay Shero the big bucks, to master that huge financial game of Jenga and make sure the hopes of a long playoff run don't collapse.


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