What’s the best strategy for Penguins general manager Ray Shero at the trade deadline? Who should the Kings target to help their offense? Do the Blackhawks have any buyer’s remorse? All this and more in this week’s hockey mailbag. If you want to be featured in next week’s mailbag, send your questions, hockey ideas and observations in here.
Love your work, long time follower. Anyways, big Penguins fan, and it looks as though they need some big time help on the wing. What kind of return do you think Simon Despres could fetch? Could they get a Matt Moulson in return? Also, what would it take to pry away either Blake Wheeler or Evander Kane? Do the Pens have the assets? Would a first-round pick, Despres, Beau Bennett be enough?
Erik Bruckner, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Trade: Depres, second-round pick to the Islanders for Thomas Vanek.
Shawn, Pittsburgh, PA
Ray Shero's caught in a tough spot. He has assets on defense, both in the NHL and AHL, but he also has pending UFAs this summer in Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. With the need for another top-six winger, does he trade someone like Simon Despres who would slide into one of the spots vacated by a departure from either Orpik or Niskanen or does he dangle him? If he's traded, and you lose both guys in July, then you have Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson as your third pairing in 2014. But my two thoughts are: 1) Olli Maatta should be untouchable and 2) I'd shop Kris Letang before his limited no-trade kicks in next summer and his contract doubles. To me, his game has stalled in the past 18 months and he would fetch quality assets and/or picks. Phew. Your thoughts?
CP, Pittsburgh, PA
Erik, Shawn and CP, let’s knock out all three of these questions/ideas with one answer. Here’s where I think the Penguins are right now: Yes, they’d like to add a top-six winger, but I don’t believe they’re too eager to re-enter the rental route, and they don’t want to commit to a big salary. They might have to go rental if another option doesn't emerge, but a team such as Pittsburgh can’t constantly send young assets and first-round picks to other teams for players who leave in a few months. It might work once or twice, but it’s not a habit you want to get in, year after year after year.
So their first choice may not be a guy such as Moulson or Vanek who can walk after the playoffs. I also don’t believe it’d be wise to trade any of the veteran defensemen in the middle of the season when you’re trying to win in the playoffs, and that includes Letang. It’s not always easy to find the perfect partner in midseason to make real, live hockey deals, which I believe the Penguins would prefer. But in a perfect world, maybe there’s a partner out there that needs young defensemen who has young forwards to offer.
For instance, look at the Lightning. They have aging players on defense and are loaded with young talent up front. Maybe they would be willing to part with a young player such as Brett Connolly in return for one of the Penguins' good, young defensemen (and I agree, not Maatta. He’s not going anywhere). A deal like that makes more sense, although they’re not the typical deadline deal. If it’s not possible, the Penguins might have to go to Plan B and get a rental.
So much was made of Bobby Ryan being left off the Olympic team for Sochi, but in your mind is he even the first player left off that deserves to be on the team?