Pens Big Movers at the Deadline

February 26, 2008

Marian Hossa

 Marian Hossa Takes the Pittsburgh Penguins from very good to hands-down favorite in the NHL’s Eastern Conference

 

Evidently Penguins GM Ray Shero thinks the Pens are ready to make a run for the Stanley Cup, trading away crowd favorites Colby Armstrong and Erik Christiansen, along side super prospect Angelo Esposito and a first round pick to the Trashers for offensive threat Marian Hossa and right winger Pascal Dupuis, according to the Post-Gazette. The Pens had already addressed their defensive needs by acquiring Hal Gill from Toronto.

There are definitely long term ramifications to the deal, which I will get to shortly, but first I’d like to congratulate my fellow Yinzers on officially boasting the best paper team in hockey. It’s a good feeling to be a favorite to win the cup.

Not that the Pens offense had been sputtering by any means, but the addition of Hossa, who’s vision and abilities will be welcome along side either Sid the Kid or Evgeni Malkin, officially make the Pens the most explosive team in the NHL, if not one of the most explosive ever.Think about it: Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Sergei Gonchar and Petr Sykora on the same power play unit?!?! That’s three 100 point scorers, the league’s leading power play assist man, and a guy who’s tied for 8th in the NHL in power play goals. That’ll even have Martin Brodeur shaking in his pads.

From what I gather, Dupuis should be capable of filling into Colby Armstrong’s role as far as talent goes, though he’s a bit weaker offensively and doesn’t have the upside or Armstrong — Dupuis will turn 30 near season’s end. The significant downgrade here is in the oft-discussed chemistry department. Armstrong and Crosby were best friends on and off the ice, and though I doubt it will really be that big of a deal, chemistry can be a very big deal in hockey.

As unbelievable as the Hossa deal is, the acquisition of Gill from Toronto is possibly equally as important. The Pens glaring weakness all year besides some inconsistency early on from the offense and goaltending has been the failure of the defensemen to really impact the game. Gill is a shut-down defender, and plays as physical as any defensemen in the NHL. He comes with a reputation of being able to stifle any team’s premiere scorer, and offers the Pens another physical presence in their own zone beyond Brooks Orpik.

The Pens are a much better team right now because of this deal, but two glaring questions have to be answered: Does this deal make the Pens better 3 years from now? And was it worth it to send away 3 quality players, plus 3 draft picks to get back what we did?

The answer to the first question really depends on what the Pens intend to do with Hossa. The 29 year-old winger is in the last year of his contract, and will be an unrestricted free-agent at season’s end. I highly doubt that the Pens will be able to keep Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, and Marc-Andre Fluery all under the cap long-term.

Crosby’s making $8.7 million a year until 2013, and Malkin will be due for a raise into the $7-9 million range sometime between this summer and next. Fluery is making $1.6 million right now, and will get a new deal after this off-season, probably in the $3-4 million range. Either way, when the Pens decide that Marc-Andre is or isn’t the future of the franchise, they will need to dish out $5-7M at least on a solid goal-tender to be competitive long-term.

My guess is Hossa would be due somewhere between $6-7M per year to sign long-term, which I think would be affordable, though I really don’t know enough about the NHL salary system to say for sure that the Pens could make that work.

If the Pens make a good run at the Cup this year, as they should with this squad, and they can resign Hossa long-term, which is a solid maybe, then this deal could go down as a genius move by Shero. I was a huge Erik Christiansen fan, and the fact that Sid and Colby were best buds on and off the ice definitely counts for something. But in the more I look at it, and the more encouraged I feel that the Pens could resign Hossa — as false as the encouragement may be — I really, really like this deal.

If nothing else, it means Lord Stanley could be returning to the ‘Burgh, where it rightfully belongs.

Advertisements

Hockey Talk: Malkin’s Future

January 21, 2008
Malkin and Ovechkin

Caps star Alex Ovechkin and Pens stud Evgeni Malkin, former Russian league roommates, put on a show to remember Monday night in Pittsburgh

First of all, to anybody who hasn’t seen it, or for anyone who has and just wants to have their mind blown again, take a look at this Rick Nash goal from last Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Goal of the century at the least, if not the best goal of all-time. Ranks right next to this goal from Washington’s Alex Ovechkin which was, coincidentally, against the Coyotes as well.

Speaking of Ovechkin and the Caps, if you missed Monday night’s game in Pittsburgh, you missed one of the best games of the season. In a hotly contested offensive shoot-out, the Pens and Caps went back and forth all night. Ovechkin put on his usual show, scoring two goals and an assist, plus a shoot-out goal to put the Caps ahead.

Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin continued to find the back of the net at a ridiculous pace, scoring two goals while assisting on a Ryan Malone power play goal early in the third period. Malkin and Ovechkin put on an absolute show in the ‘Burgh, making electric play after electric play all night long. The two even almost dropped the gloves in the second after Ovechkin tried delivering a big hit (fast-forward to the 8 second mark if your really impatient) on Malkin. Needless to say, Malkin proved to be the tougher Russian.

The big thing I take away from this game, however, is Malkin’s performance, and how it could effect the future of the Pens. Prior discussions on this forum and countless others have questioned whether Malkin, whose face-off performances have not been all that impressive to date, should be moved to a wing position next to Crosby as a long-term solution. I think Monday night’s game proves that keeping Crosby and Malkin split is necessary to maximize both players talents.

Malkin’s started hit the back of the net with a lot more regularity when Pens’ coach Michel Therrien began using Malkin as a wingman on the top scoring line next to Crosby. However, there is just no way the Pens can keep those two together. Malkin would just be too valuable centering the second line, being the Ron Francis to Sidney Crosby as Mario Lemieux, or Mark Messier to the Oiler’s Wayne Gretzky, if you will. Malkin creates way to many opportunities on his own to use him as a pure scorer next to Crosby. The guy has too much talent not to captain his own line.

One more intriguing stat that I take away from Monday’s game — the Pens were an impressive 3-of-8 on the power play tonight. That’s without Sidney Crosby in the line-up. Also worth noting, Petr Sykora has scored 8 of his 14 goals this season on the power play, which is odd considering he hasn’t even been a regular on the top power play unit, so far as I know. Maybe Therrien needs has some considering to do regarding his power play units once Crosby returns. We’ll see if tonight’s power play success was a fluke, or if maybe Crosby’s presence on the ice was somehow holding the Pens back, although I can’t imagine how it would be.