Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and for the fourth year in a row—at first glance, anyway—it looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins' savvy GM Ray Shero has acquired some nice additions to an already-solid and playoff-tested lineup.
Shero’s trades for defenseman Jordan Leopold and left winger Alexei Ponikarovsky signify that the Pens and their sharp-minded GM have no plans to surrender Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the 2010 playoffs—at least not without a serious fight.
Once again, Shero has seemed to find a way to attain quality players—and quality people—for his team's playoff push. It is something that he has done remarkably well during his short stint as the Penguins key dealmaker.
The artistry behind Shero’s dealings, however, is about much more than just the talent level of the players he brings into the franchise. It is also about the incoming players' intangibles, the timing of these acquisitions, and the ability to structure deals that have not put a strain on the organization's future ability to remain competitive.
In 2007, a young and inexperienced Penguins team was set to make its first appearance in the postseason since its remarkable run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.
Much of the roster was about to embark on its first foray into the NHL’s second season, and Shero made the deft move of bringing in longtime playoff warrior Gary Roberts.
Although Ottawa dispatched the shell-shocked Penguins in five games, the youngsters got to see—firsthand from Roberts—what it takes to compete in the postseason.
Fast forward to the following year’s deadline, and Shero comes out of nowhere to reel in the biggest fish in the trading pond—Marian Hossa—for Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, prospect Angelo Esposito, and a first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Hossa’s addition helped propel the Penguins all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they eventually succumbed to the Detroit Red Wings in six hard-fought games.
The experience the team gained from that long and arduous journey in the spring of 2009 was invaluable.
That playoff run, along with Shero’s ingenuity to swing deals for Chris Kunitz—and the Pens top prospect, Eric Tangradi—and Billy Guerin and to claim Craig Adams off waivers, was the catalyst for the Penguins championship in 2009.
It can be justifiably argued that neither trip to the finals would have occurred if Shero didn’t assume the monumental risk of landing Hossa.
As is the situation with most deadline deals, it has yet to be determined whether or not Shero's 2010 additions will have a positive effect on the team’s playoff fortunes.
But I can’t imagine the 6’4”, 225-pound “Pony” not having an impact riding shotgun on Evgeni Malkin’s left side.
As for Leopold, he was a surprise pickup given that the Pens were already three deep on their blue line with puck-rushing defensemen. I would have preferred a more physical, stay-at-home rear guard to have been brought into the fold (Brooks Orpik is the Pens only imposing blue line presence).
Only time will tell if these two players will help Pittsburgh make its third-consecutive excursion deep into the Stanley Cup tourney—and despite my questioning of one of the two deadline moves, I believe in Shero.
Why wouldn’t I. He’s yet to give me a reason not to.