With the 2013 NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET, April 3, Eye on Hockey will examine whether each team is a buyer or seller at the deadline, and who each team should look to sell or receive by the deadline.
Buyers or Sellers
Given that they enter Tuesday at the top of the Eastern Conference and have one of the best records in the NHL, it's pretty clear that the Penguins are buyers. General manager Ray Shero has made an addition at the deadline every year he's been in charge of the Penguins with the exception of last season. I wouldn't expect him to stand pat again.
Some of the moves over the years have been bold (Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis) and some have been minor tweaks (Gary Roberts, Alex Kovalev, Alexei Ponikarovsky) but you can probably count on him doing something to add to his roster before the playoffs begin.
And he certainly has the trade chips in the organization to make something big happen if he wants to with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young defensemen in Simon Despres, Joe Morrow, Derrick Pouliot, Olli Matta, Brian Dumolion, and Scott Harrington.
The Penguins have been connected to several of the biggest names that could be available by the time the trade deadline rules around, including Calgary's Jarome Iginla, St. Louis' Chris Stewart, and even at one point Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson. The Blue Jackets, for what it's worth, have regularly had multiple people, including new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and team president John Davidson, attending games in Pittsburgh over the past several weeks, which only adds to speculation like that (Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit have also been regulars in Pittsburgh recently).
Everybody is always trying to find another top winger for the Penguins, particularly for Sidney Crosby's line, but they are for the second year in a row the highest-scoring team in the league and a dominant force offensively. Chris Kunitz and Dupuis have been sensational (Kunitz is second in the league in scoring, and Dupuis has been one of the best even-strength goal-scorers in the league since the start of last season) on Crosby's wings, and with Beau Bennett starting to establish himself the second line looks like it will be just as good once Evgeni Malkin returns to the lineup alongside James Neal.
I understand the recent Stewart fascination (he's more of a prototypical "top-six power forward" than a guy like Dupuis, and he gives you that "veteran presence," if you value that sort of thing, over a guy like Bennett for the playoff run) but his production this season looks like a guy that's due to for a steep decline (a 25 percent shooting percentage) in the near future and I'm not sure he's a good enough all-around player to make up for it when the goals stop coming. If they're going to add a top-line scorer they might be more inclined to go after a younger player under contract control (kind of like James Neal when they acquired him two years ago) than a rental.
What the Penguins really need up front right now is some depth on their bottom six and help on a penalty kill unit that has struggled since the end of last season. The fourth line especially has been a nonexistent this season, and their bottom-six forwards don't get enough heat for the team's defensive struggles. Just throwing names at the wall here, but a guy like Phoenix's Boyd Gordon would make a lot of sense if the Coyotes fall out of the Western race and become sellers.
Depth on the blue line has also been a concern this season, though the in-season addition of Mark Eaton has been a pleasant surprise. Despres has also played extremely well in his limited action this season but hasn't quite been given a regular look in the lineup and is still surprisingly a healthy scratch from time to time. Edmonton's Ladislav Smid could be a nice complement to Despres (if they would simply play him more) on the bottom pairing if the Oilers would part with him.
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