A lot of tension surrounded the trade deadline yesterday. In a typical sense, players clenched their collectives teeth and waited patiently, more so anxiously, to see what the outcome would be.
The Penguins were not expected to be big buyers or sellers in the 2008 trade deadline. What they had was working, and the only thing they needed and waited for was the health of the top players to improve. Players like Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen had to have been a bit on edge, yet probably skeptical at best to their eminent fates.
The first move from the Penguins was that of a defenseman, Hall Gill from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In exchange for a second round pick and a fifth round pick, one could say each team got what they were looking for. For the past four years, the Penguins have been masters at picking top players from the top of the draft heap. Players like Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik, Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Colby Armstrong had all come into their own while amongst the Pens. Toronto, in need of a minor rebuilding phase, was looking for draft picks on the entire day. This exchange for Gill seemed pretty fitting on both ends.
However, nearly four-minutes before the official deadline, TSN reported the Pittsburgh Penguins had acquired Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis in a "blockbuster" trade. The details were still scant at the time, but the rumor was Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen and last year's number on pick Angelo Esposito would all be heading to Atlanta in the exchange. Additionally, next season's first round pick was rumored to also be on the line.
Within minutes the word was official. The media jumped on the deal, citing Hossa as the ultimate addition for the already lethal Penguins offense. TSN headlines read, "Sidney, Meet Marian."
Yet to some, and that some is comprised of almost 100% of the Penguins Nation, this trade was a detrimental move. Players like Colby Armstrong may be a dime-a-dozen offensively, but that isn't the case for chemistry. Armstrong was the team joker, prankster, the guy who would just as easily deflate the tires of your car as he would stand up for you in an on-ice scuffle. He was roommates with Sidney Crosby and best friends outside of hockey. For some, this was merely a case of Roberts and Recchi to a younger degree. Yet, the media hyped it up to no end. By the time the puck dropped in Long Island against the Islanders, one would almost think Colby and Sidney ended a lifelong affair with the rate of coverage. All that was missing from the equation was a tabloid picture of the two holding hands in Malibu, with a caption along the likes of "Sidney packs on the pounds."
A trade like this hits home. But at the same time, a trade like this reaffirms that Ray Shero means business. Colby and Erik were great guys for the team, albeit streaky ones. Shero knew beforehand the implications of this trade, but also knew the payoff.
Marian Hossa, known simply as a "rental player", may not sit with the Pens after this season thanks to contractual obligations. The Pens only have so much room in the cap, and are most likely going to shoot to re-sign Malkin before working with other players up for negotiation (Hossa, Fleury, Orpik).
That is where the gamble comes in. If the cup fails to find its way back to Pittsburgh this season, this move may easily be perceived as one of the dumbest and most wasted move of the season. However, should the move pay-off, Shero may appear to be a borderline genius. That is the gamble he is willing to take, and as a Penguins fan hungry for the cup, that is the move I'm willing to accept.
Sides may be chosen on the whole matter, but in the end Pittsburgh wants to cup. To say otherwise wouldn't make one to be much a fan of the team, but merely a fan of the players.
Besides, no one likes a loser. In fact, they'll hate a loser even more should a trade gamble along these lines not come to a fairy tale ending.
However, no one is going to say Crosby isn't excited to get back to the ice with Hossa and the rest of the team, because Crosby and the rest of the Penguins are athletes; most importantly competitors. And in the world of competition you do what's right for the win.