December 31, 2008 :: 2:53pm ET
Penguins' New Year wish: A winger for Sidney
By David Pagnotta
[Toronto, ON] -- With 2009 just hours away, NHL teams have been
strategizing and analyzing their rosters for several weeks in
preparation for the second half of the season.
With names like Marian Gaborik,
Jason Spezza, Ilya Kovalchuk and Jay Bouwmeester floating around the
rumor world, fans are itching to see another mega blockbuster trade,
one that could very well come in the New Year.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been
looking for a long-term solution to plant on Sidney Crosby's left or
right side. They had hoped to have found the answer last season when
they acquired sniper Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers on
trade deadline day.
Crosby's only superstar winger, performed as expected alongside Sid
and dazzled fans with goals and trick plays. But, as we all know,
that didn't last very long, as Hossa left the Penguins in the summer
to sign with the champion Detroit Red Wings.
Now, many will argue that the deal
the Penguins made for Hossa was a brilliant one, and I tend to
agree. At the time, I thought the return the Thrashers received was
solid, although I'm sure the team would preferred to acquire a
legitimate top-six forward as part of a package. For the Penguins,
the deal definitely paid dividends as Hossa helped the team reach
the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since they won the Cup in
This team needs that elite winger
playing with Crosby to regain near-championship status.
I remember walking through the
concourse level of Mellon Arena last June during the Finals, seeing
all the fans with Crosby, Hossa and Malkin jerseys simply pumped and
excited to see their team battle it out for Lord Stanley's Cup. It
was a nice scene to watch. It was my first time covering the Finals
and it certainly didn't disappoint.
For the Penguins to return to that
form, GM Ray Shero will almost certainly have to get his hands on
another top forward and it could cost him one of his young prized
Looking at Pittsburgh's roster,
there aren't many tradable assets. Shero isn't about to trade away
guys like Ryan Whitney or Sergei Gonchar to free up enough space to
add a top six winger. With the money saved from Whitney and
Gonchar's injuries (the salaries of players placed on long-term IR
do not count against the cap from the time they're put on the list
to the time they're taken off it), the Penguins have the space to
add a $5 million player to their roster, keeping in mind that
they'll likely have to dish away someone from their current lineup.
Considering the options that are
available (and potentially available), the Penguins are relatively
limited in who they can try to acquire.
Sure, if the right pieces are
dealt, they can try to make a pitch for Gaborik, although I doubt
they'll go down that road. Gaborik's an unrestricted free agent at
season's end and the Penguins don't want to risk losing another key
acquisition for nothing.
With so many teams still in the
thick of things in the playoff races, it's tough to vision which
teams start selling at this point in the season. The Penguins can't
afford Kovalchuk, so he's out; I can't see Pittsburgh bringing in
Billy Guerin from the New York Islanders; and the St. Louis Blues
aren't about to trade away Brad Boyes.
As it stands, given how the
standings look right now, the logical choice would be trying to
pluck Martin St. Louis out of Tampa Bay.
There have been rumblings
suggesting the Lightning are considering the possibility of moving
the 2003-04 NHL MVP. While they haven't approached him about waiving
his no-trade clause, various reports claim St. Louis would ponder
the idea of accept a move if it's to the right environment.
Taking a quick peak at the
standings, the Lightning sit nine points out of a playoff spot and
post-season play seems like a very long shot right now.
If the Penguins can convince the
Lightning to part with St. Louis, and the speedy winger is willing
to waive his no-trade clause, I can't see why he wouldn't want to
It would almost be a guarantee that
he'd play alongside Crosby. With his speed, toughness and hands, St.
Louis can plant himself in the opposition's crease, dig the puck out
of the corners and easily pot in a nifty pass from Sid to give the
Penguins a win.
In order to get a player of St.
Louis' caliber, a player who still has two-years beyond this season
left on his contract (at a salary of $5.25 million per year), the
Penguins would likely have to give up Jordan Staal as part of a
Staal has been the subject of many
trade rumors lately, but it would make sense. The Lightning receive
a talented forward who can play the center and wing position.
Lightning management and ownership isn't against spending money, as
they've already shown, but they would have no problems with signing
Staal (who is a restricted free agent at season's end) to a
Penguins have the cap space to make this move work. Looking
long-term, Pittsburgh has Miro Satan, Petr Sykora, Ruslan Fedotenko,
Philippe Boucher and Hal Gill coming off the books as UFAs, freeing
up $12.875 million. Just eliminating Satan's contract gives the Pens
enough cash to keep St. Louis.
Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't.
But looking at what's available, St. Louis might be the Penguins'
best option... and having a player who has averaged slightly over a
point-per-game in his last five seasons (410 points in 408 games)
playing with Crosby cannot hurt.
Now, it's unlikely we'll see this
move happen in the next week or two, but as we inch closer to the
trade deadline, I wouldn't be surprised if these two teams hook up
and pull the trigger.
is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the
Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a
contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.