by Tony on 01/14/11 at 09:46 PM ET
Yeah, we’re still six weeks away from the excitement that is NHL Trade Deadline Day on February 28th.
But that doesn’t mean that the wheels aren’t starting to spin in the respective General Manager’s offices around the NHL. They might not be close to many deals, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t busy. They’re discussing deal parameters, team needs, salary cap implications, contract expirations, minor league rosters and numerous other intangibles.
So shazam, you’re GMRS. You’re looking to tweak your roster to hopefully improve your team for a long playoff run and another Stanley Cup.
Whatcha gonna do?
Before we begin, let’s look at the prerequisites;
- The Penguins currently have eight players (Dupuis, Talbot, Rupp, Godard, Asham, Adams, Comrie, Conner) that will become Unrestricted Free Agents at season’s end, with two other players (Kennedy, Letestu) becoming Restricted Free Agents.
- As of today, they only have approximately $118,000 in cap space available.
- Six players (Crosby, Malkin, Cooke, Martin, Orpik, Fleury) have some sort of No-Trade or No-Movement Clause.
To make things easier, I’m going to divide the current Penguins’ roster into four categories of chances of possibly being traded. Here we go:
Category #1 - Never Gonna Happen
Sidney Crosby. Let’s move on.
Category #2 - Highly Unlikely
Evgeni Malkin. Oh sure, he’s the hot topic nowadays, I get it. I’m as frustrated as anyone watching him, I wrote as much earlier this week. But trading him? Um, no. You don’t trade Evgeni Malkin, at least right now. Now if he continues on this quote/unquote slump for another year, making $8.7 million? Then we might talk. But right now, as the category indicates, highly unlikely.
Jordan Staal. What a relief as a fan watching Staal back on the ice and being a presence right away. Staal is the whole package, whether that’s his Selke-like two-way play, or as he displayed last game, in front of the net on the power play. And he’s not even in full game shape yet. Staal ain’t going anywhere.
Paul Martin. Recent GMRS addition with a long contract for a lot of money. Here for at least a few years.
Zbynek Michalek. See above.
Brooks Orpik. Longest tenured Penguin. One of the better defensive defensemen in the league, not to mention one of the hardest hitting. Making relatively mediocre salary of $3.75M for three more seasons after this one. Let me say this, it wouldn’t be jaw-dropping to me if Orpik were dealt, but it had better be for one helluva sniper. Really doubt that happens though, especially since he has a modified No-Trade Clause. Orpik stays.
Kris Letang. Norris candidate for the next several years, at least. Another relatively low salary for three more years, considering his vaulting to elite defensemen status. I can’t put him in the Never Gonna Happen category. After all, he’s not Sid. But he’s damn close. He’s closer than Malkin or Staal, I’ll go ahead and say that.
Marc-Andre Fleury. Aaah, another one that was a hot topic not too long ago. But not now, eh? Elite goaltending is at such a premium in the NHL, it would take a monumental deal to even consider trading Fleury. Not gonna happen.
Category #3 - Doubtful
Chris Kunitz. Kunitz is having a career year, whether that’s in scoring goals or simply in his overall play on Sidney Crosby’s wing. Is he irreplaceable? Certainly not. Kunitz can help a lot of teams, but in the end it’s his $3.725M salary through next season that may turn most of those teams off.
Matt Cooke. Recently signed a new three-year deal with the Penguins. One of the best agitators in the league. Valuable penalty killer. Bruising forechecker. Plus, he has a Modified No-Trade Clause, which could complicate any possible deal.
Brent Johnson. Solid backup goaltender. Some of the best stats for backups in the league. Low salary at $600K through next season.
Mark Letestu. Expiring contract at $500K, RFA. Rookie the Penguins are very high on. Would have to be involved in a major deal for GMRS to include him.
Deryk Engelland. Recently signed three-year contract extension. Improving defensive skills. Rapidly being regarded as one of the better fighters in the league. Could end up making enforcer roster spot obsolete.
Category #4 - Possible
Pascal Dupuis. Expiring contract at $1.4M, not sure if Penguins would give him much more of a contract raise for next season. Not an irreplaceable player, but good penalty killer, and his speed could attract a lot of teams.
Max Talbot: Expiring contract at $1.05M. “Character/locker room guy”, but on-ice performance has diminished considerably. Another good penalty killer, and his tenacious style of play could help a team down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Mike Rupp. Expiring contract at $825K. Underrated offensive skills for someone most known as an enforcer. The problem is that the Penguins, with the emergence of Deryk Engelland and the signing of Arron Asham, have plenty of players who can drop the gloves if need be.
Eric Godard. Expiring contract at $750K. Hasn’t never played a playoff game for the Penguins, and not playing much during the regular season when healthy. As mentioned with Rupp, Penguins have a plethora of fighters now. Godard’s time with the Penguins could be just about up.
Tyler Kennedy. Expiring contract at $725K, RFA. Speedy, gritty winger, but doesn’t contribute to the scoring as much as he’s expected to. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him packaged somehow in a deal.
Arron Asham. Expiring contract at $700K. See Rupp, Mike.
Craig Adams. Expiring contract at $550K. Right-handed gritty center and a good penalty killer but rarely scores. Wouldn’t be surprised if GMRS retains him, but he’s included in a deal to help the Penguins down the streatch, he might pull the trigger.
Chris Conner. Expiring contract at $500K. The Penguins have no doubt been happy with his play, but it’s not like he’s untouchable by any means. Like Dupuis, his speed and grit could be attractive to the right team.
Alex Goligoski. Earning $1.8M through next season, then RFA. GoGo is the enigma, without a doubt. Leads Penguins defensemen in goals with nine, and tied for the team lead in plus/minus with +20. But his defensive play has not significantly improved in his time in Pittsburgh. Combine that with a few defensemen in the AHL and Juniors that are very close to being NHL-ready, and Goligoski just might be the main piece in a trade to acquire help at winger.
Ben Lovejoy. Earning $525K through 2012-2013. Has played about half of the Penguins’ games, getting scratched the other half. He’ll be firmly entrenched at the #5 or #6 defenseman for the foreseeable future, assuming he stays. But with Engelland’s emergence and defensive improvement, Lovejoy could be included in a package.
Mike Comrie. Expiring contract at $500K. I put Comrie in here basically because he was the only player I didn’t mention. With his hip surgery keeping him out for most of the season, he won’t be in any trade talks. We’ll just have to see what happens to his status as we get closer to the playoffs.
Well, that’s it. Of course, I could be completely wrong, and a player in the “Doubtful” category could go, what the hell do I know. But taking everything into account, this is just the way I see things shaping up.
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