December 31, 2008 :: 2:53pm ET
Real-Time Journal:
Penguins' New Year wish: A winger for Sidney
By David Pagnotta
TheFourthPeriod.com

[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.

Sidney CrosbyHossa, 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 1992.

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 studs.

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.

Martin St. Louis and Sidney CrosbySo who's left?

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 join Pittsburgh.

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 deal.

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 long-term contract.

Martin St. LouisThe 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.

David Pagnotta 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.

  Archives:
  Dec. 02, 2008 Avery sinks to new low
  Nov. 15, 2008 Quebec City working towards new arena
  Oct. 21, 2008 Another team in TO? Interesting!
  Sept. 23, 2008 Winnipeg remains a viable option


 


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