On Sunday night, Rob Rossi, Penguins beat writer for the Tribune-Review, appeared on a weekly Pittsburgh talk show and suggested the team would be wise to put Sidney Crosby on the trade block this offseason. I guess this is what happens when you go from being two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup to being the No. 10 team in the Eastern Conference in a matter of one season.
To be fair, Rossi didn't come out and say the Penguins were in a position where they would be forced to trade Crosby, but that it would be wise to put him on the market and make it known they were listening to offers. That's slightly different from Miller's this must happen or the team will never win again angle.
That doesn't make it better.
To support his stance, Rossi drew a comparison to the June 30, 1992 trade that sent Eric Lindros (whom was "the next one" before Crosby was "the next one") from the Quebec Nordiques to the Philadelphia Flyers. In exchange for the rights to Lindros, Quebec received Peter Forsberg, Steve Duschene, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Philadelphia's first-round pick in 1993 (which turned out to be goalie Jocelyn Thibault), a truck full of money, and "future considerations," which turned out to be Chris Simon and Philadelphia's first-round pick in 1994.
It was the mother of all NHL trades. It seems every year come draft time, if there's a player that stands out above the pack, there is some chatter among fans and some media types that it would take "an Eric Lindros-type return to get that pick." I can admit to taking part in such discussions prior to the 2006 draft when the Penguins won the Crosby lottery.
Here's the problem: there's not going to be another Lindros trade. Lindros wasn't even a proven entity at the time. Philadelphia was trading for unlimited potential, and in the process, helped build a perennial power for Quebe ...err... Colorado.
Going back to the Penguins, I cringe at the thought as to what would have happened if former general manager Ed Johnston had pulled the trigger on a similar trade prior to the 1984 draft, when teams were, according to legend, offering their entire drafts for the rights to pick Mario Lemieux. I'm sure it would have worked out great for the Seattle Penguins.
Analysis: The Oilers ultimately won another Stanley Cup after the trade and advanced to the Conference Finals two more times ... before missing the playoffs for four straight years. Carson registered 100 points (49 goals, 51 assists) during his one full season in Edmonton, before being traded to Detroit for Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, Adam Graves and Jeff Sharples. That's a lot of players coming and going and none of them come close to 99. The fact Edmonton still had Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Glenn Anderson certainly didn't hurt its efforts to remain competitive after the trade.
December 6, 1995: Montreal trades Patrick Roy and Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault.
Analysis: Kind of odd to see Rucinsky and Thibault as part of some of the biggest trades in NHL history (both were in this trade, while Thibault was selected with a pick in the Lindros trade, and Rucinsky was selected following the Gretzky trade). As for this deal, the Canadiens were in sort of a bind here. Roy was fueding with head coach Mario Tremblay, and it all went somewhat biblical in an 11-1 loss to Detroit. Roy gave up nine goals, and after being pulled, informed the team president that it was his last game in Montreal. Three days later, he was gone. Colorado won a pair of Stanley Cups with Roy, while the Canadiens ... well ... they're on the third guy that's supposed to be the next Roy (Carey Price, come on down!).
August 2, 2005 and July 3, 2006 -- Chris Pronger: In the first deal, the St. Louis Blues send Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka. After one year in Edmonton, the Oilers send him to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, two first round picks and a second round pick.
Analysis: In the second trade, Pronger requested his exit from Edmonton. As for the overall group of players? Brewer, Lupul and Smid are legitimate NHL players, but do any of them justify one of the nastiest, toughest defenseman in the NHL?
July 11, 2001: Pittsburgh trades Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Washington Capitals for Kris Beech, Michel Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk.
Analysis: Ugh. Jagr's exit from Pittsburgh was tumultuous to say the least, but the trade in terms of talent-for-talent was an absolute blood bath. The trio the Penguins received went on to produce 73 points (28 goals, 45 assists) in their entire NHL careers. Meanwhile, Jagr topped 73 points on his own in each of the following seasons, with the exception of his final season where he notched 71. The overall tally was 520 points (207 goals, 313 assists). I hope George McPhee at least bought Craig Patrick dinner after the deal went through. Beech will always be infamous in Pittsburgh due to Patrick's claim that he was a "Ron Francis type player" at the press conference to announce the trade. Oh, and the Capitals eventually traded Jagr to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter. Straight up.
June 23, 2006: Florida Panthers trade Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.
Analysis: The Panthers acquired Luongo (and Olli Jokinen) for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish, which was a steal. And then they gave him away.
November 30, 2005: Boston Bruins trade Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau.
Analysis: You could counter this trade being included by pointing out how the Bruins eventually traded Stuart and Primeau to Calgary for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew, but I'm going to disagree with that thinking, mainly because I don't think it makes the deal any better. Thornton is still one of the best play-making centers in hockey (he's led the league in assists three straight years since the trade, though it appears as if Malkin is going to end his run this season) while the players Boston received in return, well, they play in the NHL. The Bruins are a great team right now, but it's not because of this trade.
We could continue this all night. Ron Francis from Hartford to Pittsburgh. Alexei Kovalev from Pittsburgh to the Rangers. Messier to the Rangers for Bernie Nichols, Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk.
I suppose you could counter with Ottawa trading Alexei Yashin to the Islanders for Zdeno Chara and a first round pick (Jason Spezza). My snarky reply would be: trades involving Mike Milbury don't count!
There was also Atlanta trading Dany Heatley to Ottawa for Marian Hossa. Though, had it not been for some unfortunate circumstances off the ice, it's doubtful that deal ever gets made (Heatley himself requested to be traded). And, honestly, was either team substantially better as a result? It was simply one great player for another (Atlanta also received Greg de Vries). Hossa was eventually traded by Atlanta (along with Pascal Dupuis) for some magic beans and Colby Armstrong.
Here's what I'm getting at: it's easy to pick out the one time a team was able to cash in on a big name and use it to build the foundation for a championship hockey team, but you have to keep in mind that for every Eric Lindros trade there's a laundry list of Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton, Patrick Roy and Roberto Luongo trades that were epic failures.
Aside from arguing that the Penguins could receive a king's ransom in terms of talent, Rossi also brought up the popular salary cap argument and how the Penguins will have too much money tied up in two star centers (Malkin and Crosby).
As I argued in the Gord Miller post a few weeks back, the Penguins' situation in regards to the cap and their top-tier talent isn't any different from a number of other teams in the league. Are they are having this discussion in Washington right now? After all, Alex Ovechkin is going to count $9 million against the cap for the next 12 years while Alexander Semin is due for a new deal. There's also the contract Mike Green recently signed, while Nicklas Backstrom will be up for restricted free agency following this season. And think of what they could get for Ovechkin!
Currently, the Penguins have 13 players under contract next season for a total price of $46.2 million (according to NHL numbers). Just for comparison's sake:
Detroit Red Wings: 15 players, $47 million
Washington Capitals: 14 players, $45 million
San Jose Sharks: 13 players, $46 million
New York Rangers: 9 players, $40 million
Calgary Flames: 15 players, $43 million
Boston Bruins, 15 players, $45 million
Funny, nobody is screaming for the Red Wings to trade Henrik Zetterberg because he's going to kill their cap (but think of what they could get for him).
Now, you can certainly argue that the Penguins haven't spent their money all that efficiently beyond Crosby and Malkin, at least as far as Ryan Whitney, Jordan Staal (No. 3 center, and contrary to the belief of Pierre McGuire on NBC this past Sunday, not a top-line scoring winger) and Mark Eaton are concerned. That trio is set to make about $9 million next season, which, based on their play this season, is a disastrous overpayment.
That's certainly a problem.
However, if your solution to that problem is to trade Malkin or Crosby (currently No. 1 and 2 in the NHL in scoring) I'm not sure how that's going to give you a better product on the ice. Actually, if it played out that way, somebody would probably find themselves on the chopping block ... and I'm not talking about the head coach.