Shero’s Shopping List, Part 2: Forwards

Ray-Shero-watching-practice

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.

Before we dismiss everybody’s dream trade, Chris Stewart, or the most coveted UFA to be, Jarome Iginla, let’s look at how those trades can solve the Pens’ bottom six forward needs. The answer is easy: Pascal Dupuis. Obviously Iginla is a natural right winger and obviously he would play with Sid, so then you move Duper to the third line, to play with Cooke and Sutter, wow. And from there the Pens could move TK to the 4th line, or trade him to Calgary. A third line of Cooke-Sutter-Dupuis would easily be the best in the league.

With Stewart the Pens would probably move Kunitz to the second line to play with Malkin and Neal, akin to last year. From there Stewart would play left while Bennett would likely make the move to his natural right wing on a line with Sidney Crosby. Again, Duper would get the checking line assignment and he would probably be even more useful there. The only reason we would shy away from these deals at the deadline is because they will likely come with too much roster turnover too close to the end of the season. For some good reads on Stewart check out Faceoff Factor and Mike Colligan.

Don Smith, Getty Images

Ryane Clowe: the search for a bottom six winger begins and ends with this guy if you ask this author. Between 2008-09 and 2010-11 Clowe topped 50 points each year including 62 in 2010-11, which he then followed up with 15 more in 17 playoff games. Even his 45 last year are top-6 caliber. The reason why Clowe is available, in addition to the reasons listed when we talked about Douglas Murray, is that he has 8 assists, and no goals, in 22 games. But he does have 72 PIMs and isn’t afraid of anything. If the Pens trade for him the best case is he starts scoring, the worst case is he is a veritable cannonball on skates, something the Pens desperately need. Even if he’s too expensive to keep after this year, he would be worth it.

Jamie Sabau, Getty Images

Steve Sullivan: was sad, but not shocked, to see him go in the offseason. He’s had a good but not great season in Phoenix and if the season ended today the ‘Yotes would be on the outside looking in. Sully is already familiar with the Pens’ system, he’s great on the PP, and he could play left wing on the fourth line and do everything that Tanner Glass doesn’t do now. Apparently there have been real talks between Shero and Coyotes GM Don Maloney, so who knows what could happen.

Joel Auerbach, Getty Images

Nate Thompson: might be the most complete 4th line center in the league and he’s a pending UFA. He’s got 10 points including 4 goals, he’s over 50% on faceoffs and he spends a lot of time on the penalty kill. If you believe that the Pens will have to get through the Bruins in the quest for the Cup then Thompson makes sense. Otherwise, Joe Vitale’s nearly 63% is honestly incredible, if HCDB would just play him on the PK, there might not be a need for a guy like Thompson.

Kirk Irwin, Getty Images

Vinny Prospal: a lifelong muck and grinder, Vinny still managed to put up 55 points with the lowly Blue Jackets at the age of 37 last year. In 2005-06, while playing with Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis he posted 80, not bad. Of course unfortunately the Blue Jackets are actually playing pretty good and they look unlikely to sell so close to the playoff picture, nonetheless the Jackets and their new GM need to make moves that will serve the franchise long-term, and cutting ties with a 38 year old in deference to a 20-something like TK or DJ might make sense.

Rick Stewart, Getty Images

Steve Ott: we wanted to see the Pens take a look at him last year but nobody was prepared to make any major moves so it just didn’t happen. Ott isn’t a classic rental because he is signed through next season, but we wouldn’t be shocked to see the Sabres look to clean house. GM Darcy Regier has said he would consider offers on any player on the Sabres’ roster and this could be a long term solution for the Pens, who will likely have to make some difficult decisions on Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis (both of whom are pending UFAs, would likely enter 35+, guaranteed, contracts, and are due raises) this offseason. Ott brings a similar game but he’s only 30 this year. This is a dark horse move but Ott could be a real dominant force in a Pens jersey.

For more on Dupuis’ status with the team check out this rock solid piece from Billy Nauman at The Hockey Writers.

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