Shero’s Shopping List, Part 1: DefensemenPosted: 21/03/2013
April 3rd marks the NHL trade deadline, for what it’s worth the Pens will literally have 10 regular season games left after that date. As such there will be a real premium on rental players–teams will want to give up as little as possible from their core and receive as much as they can in return, even if the investment will only be for the length of the playoffs. Further, it seems obvious to us that the price for rental players will necessarily be high for a number of reasons, first, the salary cap will contract next year, so teams are not worried about trying to resign guys with expiring deals. Two, this will probably be the last time that teams can try to buy their way to a championship for a few years. And three, why not? With guys like Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar and other future Hall of Famers presumably on the market what will stop contenders from making huge moves?
This week also marks the annual GM Meetings which is supposed to be a time for the GM’s to weigh in on possible rule changes, but really is a carefully contrived opportunity to lock all the GM’s in a room and make them talk to one another. Some of the biggest publicity for the league comes during a crazy trade deadline, and after a slow deadline last year the NHL doesn’t want to risk a repeat so you just know that things will be interesting.
What follows is our list of guys that, if we were King Shero, we would be inquiring about during these meetings. We have organized the post into two parts: defensemen and forwards. Our viewpoint is that the Pens need two players, a shutdown defender and a bottom-six forward. There’s no guarantee that either will happen and certainly we aren’t opposed to the Pens zeroing in on Jarome Iginla or Chris Stewart if the price is right, but we’ve already discussed what Beau Bennett has done for the top-6 forward complexion moving forward, not to mention that the biggest offensive addition the Pens can make is a healthy Evgeni Malkin, as such, those guys aren’t essential pieces for us right now.
Rob Scuderi: Scuds is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and he eats defense for breakfast. He’s 34 and a pending UFA. On one hand you might wonder why we would put Scuds, part of the reigning Cup champion Kings, on this list, he doesn’t play for a team that will be selling. Indeed, but the Kings have some cap constraints, to the tune of only 13 guys locked up next year at nearly $50 million. That’s a lot. Scuds is one of 6 of their top 9 defensemen without a contract for next year. He’s also the oldest and most expensive of the pending free agents, which makes him likely to go, so it seems to us that if the Kings could get anything for him that could be a win. The Pens have already hit a home run by bringing back Mark Eaton, why not try again?
Douglas Murray: was actually shocked to learn he’s 33 now, but if the Pens were looking for a big guy on the blue line this is it, he’s 6’3″ 245 lbs, and he’s averaged 2 hits per game all season. Despite his massive size he’s only taken 26 PIMs (including 2 fights), which isn’t bad. After starting the year 7-0 the Sharks have fallen apart and rumors are increasing that Murray and other role players could be on the move. For our money Murray and Ryane Clowe look like a sweet combo worth trading for, even if they’re both pending UFAs. Dustin Jeffrey and a second round pick could go a long way if it fetched those guys.
Robyn Regehr: when he played in Calgary he was the Rock of Gibraltar, since coming to Buffalo he’s looked downright average, if not bad. Now, it really seems like the Sabres might be the worst organization in the league right now, see all the disarray here, so we’re willing to chalk up most of his struggles to that but this is perhaps the biggest risk, best reward situation.
Ladislav Smid: he’s the youngest pending UFA defenseman in the league, he’s big, physical, a decent hitter, and pretty sound defensively, as such the price that he could command might be more than what the Pens ought to pay. The difference now though is that the Pens have tons of cap room and what has become a comical supply of tradeable puck moving defensemen. The acquisition cost could be brutal, but if the Pens could convince him to stay another 5 years after this season you won’t even remember it.
Sergei Gonchar: unfortunately for Pens fans the Senators forgot that you’re not supposed to win without your best forward, defenseman, or goaltender, and it doesn’t really seem likely that Gonch is ever going to come available this season. Even at that Gonch isn’t a “shutdown” defenseman, but he could be a game changer on the PP and is easily an upgrade over Deryk Engelland for the third pairing.
Those are the big names, but a couple others deserve mentioning: Mark Streit and Mark Fistric are also pending UFAs. Streit, like Gonch isn’t shutdown, but he’s a solid player. Fistric is a bruiser but his upside is as a bottom pairing guy.