The NHL Trade Deadline is upon us.
You know what that means.
[Ryan] Kesler leads all Vancouver Canucks forwards in shorthanded time on ice this year, which gives him plenty of opportunity to maintain over 20 minutes a night with the Penguins (just as Staal was able to do in a defensively-focused role).
Despite many reports to the contrary on Tuesday, Shero and the Penguins have the cap flexibility to make a deal like this work at the deadline.
Is it too far-fetched?
The Pensblog and Mike Colligan (above) wrote about a potential Kesler-to-Pittsburgh trade yesterday. The stories are well worth your time and the idea of a trade for Kesler is not as impossible as it at first may seem.
If Kesler is indeed on the market (and he has reportedly asked for a trade, although he, his agent and the Canucks have obviously refuted as much), it was a near certainty that he would be linked to the Penguins.
But do the Penguins need to be in on one of the most sought-after trade targets in a seller's market?
Their own history says they don't.
According to Colligan, the Penguins have expressed interest in Kesler for years now. Dan Bylsma got a good, close look at Kesler with Team USA at the Sochi Games, and the Pens haven't exactly replaced Jordan Staal's production among the bottom-six forwards since dealing him to Carolina.
Whether or not any of that had taken place, the Pens would still be linked to Kesler. News of his alleged desire to be traded makes him one of the biggest names on the market, and the Penguins are expected to be tied to all big-name movers.
And Marian Hossa and Bill Guerin.
And James Neal and Gary Roberts.
And so on and so on.
Penguins GM Ray Shero has carved out a reputation of going big at the trade deadline, and why not? The Penguins core is as good as exists in hockey. For the foreseeable future, that group will need only to be supplemented, not rebuilt. Penguins ownership has essentially given Shero a blank check with which to build a championship roster -- the team has spent to the upper limits of the salary cap in six straight seasons while their real payroll has sometimes exceeded even the cap limit.
That's fertile ground for a GM looking to make splash moves.
However, Pittsburgh doesn't need to make a splash move.
Jarome Iginla was the most sought-after rental target in years before leaving the West's doormat in Calgary. Pittsburgh, inexplicably, got their hands on him. He'd played with Crosby in the Olympics, and had the playoff experience needed to augment a Penguins roster prone to fits of frustration. His leadership would be indispensable, on the order of something the Pens had lacked since Guerin retired in 2011. Crosby would have a sniper. The Penguins would be unstoppable.
Big deals have a way of going belly-up, and when they do it makes the original deal much harder to stomach. Think the Penguins might like to have back all the draft picks and prospects they surrendered in 2013 for eight wins in three rounds of a forgettable postseason?
Conversely, Shero and his staff have done their best work when no one was looking.
Jussi Jokinen came to Pittsburgh for what amounted to a seventh-round draft pick and a bag of pucks. He's a staple on the second line, plays the second power play unit, is a faceoff and shootout specialist and can play on any line. Carolina is still picking up part of his salary this season, too.
Like Jokinen, nearly all of Pittsburgh's current top-six came to town in low-key deals. Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz all arrived at trade deadlines past. Each was small change compared to names like Hossa and Iginla, but those players have produced and become fixtures.
The same goes for Matt Niskanen, a throw-in trade piece who is suddenly running point on the first power play unit while holding down top-pairing defensive duties until Paul Martin and Kris Letang return.
To be sure, those players cost far less than the pull for plays like Hossa, Iginla and Morrow. And if they fail to produce, at least the original payout is a little easier to stomach. Is anyone bemoaning the loss of Luca Caputi for a few weeks of Alexei Ponikarovsky?
We can't predict what the Penguins will do at the deadline, and until they start working the phones and having it out with other front offices, they won't either. Kesler might look very good in black and gold. His remaining term makes the deal even more attractive than an Iginla-style rental. But he'll be expensive, and he might also flame out, as other big names have in the past.
Big trades are fun and can lead to greater success, but the Penguins don't have to turn the world upside down to be successful.
They've got all the proof of that they need on the roster they've already built.
I'm on twitter.