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The Confluence

Will the Penguins EVER get Crosby a winger for longer than a cup of coffee ??

This depresses me even typing it.  Sigh, I could use a brew right now.

Ziggy Palffy.  Mark Recchi.  Ryan Malone.  Erik Christensen.  Colby Armstrong.  Michel Ouellet.  I can even throw out Andy Hilbert.  Jani Rita.  Tomas Surovy.  Nils Ekman.  I’ve left out at least 20 names.  I could go on, and on, and on.

And now, Pascal Dupuis.  Max Talbot.  Miro Satan.  Ruslan Fedotenko.

What do they have in common ??  At one point or another they’ve all been Sidney Crosby’s wingers in his three-plus seasons in the NHL.

If there is one aspect of Ray Shero’s performance that he’s failed on since he became General Manager, and I think he’s done a fabulous job overall, it is his failure to bring in a scoring winger long-term for Crosby.

In retrospect, when you think about it, it makes Crosby’s stats (112 goals, 328 points in 236 career regular season games) that much more impressive.  Relatively speaking, he’s had very little to work with.

Not that folks like Recchi or Malone or Dupuis or Talbot aren’t serviceable NHL’ers, they certainly are, but they aren’t built to be the finisher that a world-class playmaker like Crosby needs to have the Penguins’ #1 line running at peak efficiency.

In defense of those guys, it cannot be easy to play with Crosby, much like being on a line with Mario Lemieux.  It’s somewhat different though.  Lemieux was so damn good that he could get Robbie Brown 49 goals during the ‘88-‘89 season.  While Crosby’s playmaking abilities are certainly top-notch, today’s defenses nullify that type of scoring gluttony.  But Crosby can still get the puck to the right kind of winger in plenty of seemingly impossible scenarios.  The right winger that plants that pass to the tape to the top shelf, rather than whiff or not even have your stick on the ice.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention that Hossa guy when I started rattling off names.  Well, it’s not becuase I hate Marian Hossa.  Well, much anyway.  But Shero, the Penguins and their fans knew immediately when they made that trade last deadline day that Hossa was a UFA at season’s end and that there was a decent chance that he would not return.  So while it certainly sucked that Hossa left the ‘Burgh, much less that he bolted for frickin’ Detroit of all places, we all knew that was a possibility as last season wound down.

You’ll also notice I didn’t mention Evgeni Malkin.  Malkin, naturally, isn’t a long-term linemate for Crosby.  HCMT will obviously continue to split them up, and not put his two horses on the same line other than certain points in the game.  So I’m just going to ignore Geno for now.

I’m talking about a scoring winger that’s around longer than three months.  I’m talking long-term.  Unfortunately, that isn’t as easy as it sounds, folks.

Of course, there are some bumps in the roads for that wish.  First on that list is that the Penguins virtually have no money to spend on, well, anybody right now.  Depending on what website you’re looking at, the Pens have between 500K and 750K of cap space as of right now.  So any notions that Shero would have, say at this year’s trade deadline, of grabbing that elusive scoring winger would have to come with some crafty dealing to even come close to making that happen.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the aforementioned wingers currently on the Penguins are upcoming UFA’s at season’s end, including Satan, Fedotenko and Petr Sykora.  Their combined salaries this year is 8.25M.  You also have impending UFA’s on the blue line with Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi and Philippe Boucher, which will make a total of 5.325M.  The reason I bring all of those Penguins up is that those players may very well be trade bait come March, especially if it means clearing up cap space.

If that wasn’t enough, then you must also account for the impending contract extension of Jordan Staal, assuming he’s going to get one of course.  Up until his recent hot streak, his name was certainly being bantered by Pens fans about trading for a winger.  Obviously, that talk has quieted down now.  Conventional thought, for whatever that’s worth, is that Staal’s extension will be at least 4M per season, and recent reports indicated that the signing may be close.

The other alternative, if clearing cap room is the goal, is trading one of your other big moneymakers, Sergei Gonchar, who makes 6 million this year and 5.5 million in the last year of his contract next year, or Ryan Whitney, who has 4 more years remaining at between 3.5 and 5.5 million between then, or Brooks Orpik, making 3.75 million for the next four years after this season.  Obviously, trading Gonchar after a serious shoulder injury, even if they wanted to do, wouldn’t be easy.  Whitney may fall into line much more, if Shero was so inclined to do so.  Also, Orpik’s salary is not very prohibitive either.  In my view, trading any of them at this point is a stretch, but it’s a valid point to at least take a look.

SO, having said all that, for all those dreaming of obtaining Ilya Kovalchuk or Marian Gaborik, you’d better be willing to be one serious capologist.  Even if Hossa were to come back here after becoming a UFA again after this season, there would have to be some major shuffling just to make it work.

Will we see that quote-unquote scoring winger anytime soon ??  Without a serious roster shakeup, I just don’t see it happening, unfortunately.  But I’ll say one thing for Ray Shero, he’s already proved that he’s willing to roll the dice to try to win the Stanley Cup, and I felt that the Hossa trade was well worth the assets he gave up.  We’ll see if he surprises me again this year.

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  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins

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About The Confluence

Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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