With the current play of the team, barring a serious meltdown the Pens are poised to make the playoffs yet again. Where is another matter as the Atlantic division is such a tight race you can be first in one week and fourth the next. That makes shoring up the team that much more important for the deadline.
In a recent interview with the Post Gazette Ray Shero said not to expect any big deals from his end. This fits right into Shero’s MO and frankly one I agree with. I do not think it is prudent to give up a first round pick and more for a rental player that won’t be signed. When you look at past deals like this, they normally don’t help a whole lot. Just last year the following big names failed to have a significant impact on there new teams after being obtained for a ransom: Bill Guerin (Sharks), Mattias Norstrom (Stars), Keith Tkachuk (Thrashers), Ryan Smyth (Islanders) and Peter Forsberg (Predators) just to name a few. Most these teams were gone in the first round. They didn’t do bad, but they failed to take the team to the next level, which is the whole point of making the deal.
Another thing is team chemistry. The Pens have pretty good chemistry on the ice, but the locker room chemistry is great, possibly the best in the league. Many are young and have grown together the last few years and Therrien, despite his faults, has helped facilitate this with such things as team meals and taking a bus to practice instead of separate cars. You don’t want to add too much to disrupt things.
Finally, there is good reason for the Pens not to make a big splash. First is that there is little chance of the Pens resigning someone. With upcoming contracts to young stars in the coming years plus some UFA’s this year (who will be mentioned below) the Pens wont be able to dish out a long term deal unless they want to let a young player walk or trade him for picks. Second is that the Pens prospect system is now quite depleted. We had one of the best pools for years but now those guys have made the team leaving the Pens with little to fall back on. Shero needs to restock the prospect pool and he knows that, especially now that with a cap system losing a player has become that much more likely to happen, so a constant supply of talent is needed.
The Pens have a number of unrestricted free agents after this year. Here is the list and whether or not they should be kept for the deadline, or used as trade bait.
Gary Roberts- Keep. Roberts is always a sought after deadline acquisition because he is a playoff beast. He’s won’t the cup, has loads of leadership and experience and adds much needed grit. You could get a good amount for him, but he is more valuable to the team.
Ryan Malone- Keep. Malone is one of the Pens best wingers and has picked up his play this year. On a team lacking wings trading him shouldn’t be a thought.
Geroges Laraque- Keep. While not the best playoff performer, Laraque puts things on an even keel. You need him to protect the stars, and he should definitely be resigned.
Jarkko Ruutu- Listen to Offers. Agitators are good, but Jarrko hasn’t done well here since Therrien doesn’t know how to utilize him. If someone offers a good deal for him, I would say take it as I don’t see him coming back after this year.
Adam Hall- Keep. Hall is good on the PK and forecheck, and doesn’t really hurt as a 13th forward. Return would be minimal so it wouldn’t even be worth while to deal him.
Kris Beech- Discard. Little more than a stop gap for injuries, as soon as players start coming back look for him to be on waivers and sent to WBS.
Mark Eaton- N/A. Eaton is out for the season and little use to anyone at the moment.
Brooks Orpik- Keep. Orpik gets a lot more flak than he should, often being the scapegoat for defense. If you think either Scuderi or Whitney are better than him in the defensive zone you’re blind. He needs to be kept as defense is always key in the playoffs, and he should be resigned in the off season.
Ty Conklin- Keep. You can’t get rid of a hot goalie, period.
What to target
As mentioned earlier Shero wont go for a big acquisition. But the Pens still need some help.
Scoring Winger- someone that can at least keep up with Crosby and tap it in. It doesn’t need to be a big name but there has to be someone better than Armstrong to play along with Sid. Kennedy will most likely take one spot upon his return but we still need another.
Lower Line Depth- Pens still need some additional grit on the lower lines. Taffe and Smith while not playing horrible are only able to not mess things up at their best. You need better than that. You need guys that make the other team play with their head up and be responsible in their own end.
Physical Defenseman- Orpik remains the only physical defenseman on the team, and Letang coming in at #2 is kind of sad, nothing against Letang but he’s not quite a physical presence. Even if it’s a #4 or #5 guy, give Scuderi the bump to the press box and add this guy in. If you can get the likes of Barret Jackman from St. Louis without spending too much, do it.
Who to Dangle
Like I’ve said a few times the Pens can’t afford to give up a bevy of higher picks to land guys. But we do have some young players that are tradable.
Erik Christensen- don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. But the problem is I don’t think he can succeed on this team. Look at our center depth: Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Talbot. Crosby and Malkin have the top two lines while Staal and Talbot should fill out the lower two. Christensen’s attempts to adjust to wing have failed, meaning center is the only place for him. With that being crowded, they should attempt to deal him for either a young defenseman or winger where the Pens lack depth.
Alex Goligoski- again, nothing against him, but look at the Pens defense. You have Gonchar, Whitney and Letang as offensive guys, Sydor a two way and Orpik and Scuderi as stay at homes. Goligoski is offensive, something we don’t really need. If you can swap him for another young/younger guy then do it. He could end up a good player, but offense from the blue line isn’t something we’re in need of. I would say only give him away if you get a young stay at home blue liner though.
Mid to Late Round Picks- don’t give up a high pick unless there is a young player coming back. The mid to late picks have a much lesser chance of yielding a future player and thus are more expendable. As I said before, we need the early picks to restock our prospect system.