NHL Trade Deadline: Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, having perhaps the best year of his career, hasn't played a game since early January with a concussion, while Evgeni Malkin is done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Injuries to other forwards like Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu and Arron Asham have left the Penguins line combinations looking like something out of the American Hockey League over the past couple of weeks, complete with players like Dustin Jeffrey (also hurt), Eric Tangradi (also hurt) Brett Sterling, Tim Wallace, Joe Vitale, and Ryan Craig.
Even the replacements for the replacements have gone down with injuries.
Through it all the Penguins are still in one of the top-four spots in the Eastern Conference and fighting for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. But they're clearly not the same team they are when everyone is in the lineup. General manager Ray Shero is going to have an opportunity to add something at the deadline thanks to the LTIR flexibility within the salary cap the injuries have created.
Shero has been active at the deadline every year he's been with the Penguins, and more often than not has managed to improve his team for a postseason run (last year's experiment with Alexei Ponikarovsky was the one noticeable exception). Sometimes it's something minor like adding a veteran presence like Gary Roberts for depth. Other times it's been a major, blockbuster addition like Marian Hossa or Chris Kunitz.
Bottom line: Based on past history and Shero's comments in recent weeks, it's likely the Penguins are going to do something; it's just a matter of who it is and how big of an addition it turns out to be. The one thing that looks to be a solid bet is that whoever they go out and add, it's probably going to be a forward.
The Penguins already loaded up their defense over the summer by adding Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, while Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson have been more than solid in net. That leaves trying to add some offense to help make up for the loss of Malkin.
Some of the names that have been mentioned include Alex Kovalev and Ales Hemsky. In the case of Kovalev, it's difficult to tell if there's an actual interest, or if his name keeps getting thrown out there because he's a former Penguin that had success in his first stop with Pittsburgh. A player like Hemsky would probably instantly become the most talented forward on the roster not named Crosby or Malkin, but Edmonton's asking price appears to be too high for what the Penguins may be willing to pay at this point.
They're definitely going to be buyers, and it's most likely going to be a forward (or two); it's just a matter of how much they're willing to give up in terms of draft picks (something they're not afraid to trade), prospects or roster players.