Given the Penguins tight-to-the-cap situation, as well as Ilya Kovalchuk's desire to maximize his contract/test free agency (possibly in the NHL as well as the KHL), there wasn't any traction for him getting dealt to Pittsburgh.
But now that he's been dealt not only to an Eastern Conference rival, but a division leader in the New Jersey Devils it raises the obvious question -- do the Pens need to answer?
After the jump...
There's a rumor floating around the interwebs that the Dallas Stars (who are seeking a puck moving defenseman or two) might make a good trading partner for the Pens. Dallas is interested in Kris Letang or Alex Goligoski, some names being brought up from the other end:
#18 / Left Wing / Dallas Stars
Sep 03, 1987
Cap situation: 800k this season, RFA after it
|2009 - James Neal||52||22||18||40||-4||41||2||1||3||0||142||15.5|
Neal is about everything the Penguins lack -- he's a skilled goal-scoring winger that has size, a good shot and is reliable in all three zones. He's young, skates well and though he needs to be signed, could be a cog next to Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for years to come.
#14 / Left Wing / Dallas Stars
Jul 18, 1989
Cap situation: 822k, through 2011-12
|2009 - Jamie Benn||56||11||14||25||-6||32||1||0||1||0||118||9.3|
Jamie Benn's a rookie, and he's impressed; stepping right into the lineup and producing points at an impressive rate for a 20 year old. He's got two more seasons on his entry level contract and physically will only fill out more and continue to improve as he gets used to the NHL game.
To get either of those guys, assuming Dallas is interested in trading a young scoring winger for a young puck-moving defenseman would cost the Penguins Goligoski -- signed at a reasonable $1.833 million for two more years or Letang -- a 21 year old RFA-to-be that hasn't realized his total potential. Would Shero be feeling that aggressive? The defensive unit is currently thin as it is, even without the inevitable injuries.
The "sellers" have two fimiliar faces:
#13 / Left Wing / Carolina Hurricanes
May 08, 1972
Cap situation: $3.550m expires this season
|2009 - Ray Whitney||54||16||25||41||-5||20||3||0||3||0||113||14.2|
Maybe the Pens are Whitney (who has a no trade clause) first choice, maybe they're not. Whitney scored 77 points in 82 game last season (and 11 more in 18 post-season games). He's got something in the tank, and he's got the skill and speed to stick on any contenders' Top 6. Will it be with the Pens? Will Carolina be asking too much? Does Whitney really favor Pittsburgh over all others? Remains to be seen.
#23 / Left Wing / Toronto Maple Leafs
Apr 09, 1980
Cap situation: $2.105m (UFA after this season)
|2009 - Alexei Ponikarovsky||57||19||21||40||4||40||4||0||1||0||143||13.3|
"Poni" has almost 500 NHL games to his credit, and he's proven to be a decent point producer. He's got good size, but questions about his heart and consistency remain. Brian Burke has proven he's willing to move anyone at anytime, so he's very well on the block. Riding shotgun to a Russian in Malkin might be just what the doctor ordered....Or maybe not.
Shero has his options, and if history repeats itself things could get interesting. Hey, on a four day break between games, it's nice to throw out names.
At the end of the day, I don't expect the Pens to deal either Letang or especially Goligoski. Though they'd love to add a big, young goal-scoring winger, time has shown it's tougher to get an NHL caliber defenseman that can skate and move the puck. Time will tell though.