Q: Ray Shero's decision to trade Dany Sabourin (salary cap hit, $512,000) and Ryan Stone ($346,000) and a draft pick for Mathieu Garon (cap hit, $1.1 million) doesn't make sense based on those numbers. It doesn't appear to make sense based on a comparison of the performances of the two goalies this season, nor does it make sense based on the ages of the goalies, especially since Shero opted for Sabourin rather than keeping Ty Conklin who, along with Marian Hossa, is doing very well for Detroit this year. What is the upside of this trade for the Penguins, I don't see one.
Brian Hampton, Gaithersburg, Md.
MOLINARI: The upside, such as it is, is that Garon is an upgrade on Sabourin. The thinking here is that the deal won't make a major difference for the Penguins because, if No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury does not elevate his game to the level the Penguins expect and keep it there -- he certainly did that while stopping 33 shots in a 3-0 victory against the New York Rangers yesterday -- it won't matter who his backup is. However, Garon is generally regarded as a better goaltender than Sabourin -- presumably, most people recognize the perils of direct comparisons of the statistics of two players who played for different teams, against different opponents -- and if Fleury misses some time because of an injury, Garon might be able to get the Penguins a few more points than Sabourin would have.
And just to be clear, Shero did not "choose" Sabourin over Conklin at the end of last season. Sabourin signed a two-year contract with a one-way salary -- meaning he would make the same whether he was in the NHL or the minors -- before last season, while Conklin subsequently accepted a one-year deal that paid him a reduced salary when he played in the American Hockey League.
If the Penguins had re-signed Conklin, they would have had three goalies on one-way contracts this season, which means one would have been drawing an NHL salary to play in the minors. That wouldn't be a very prudent move for a team, while facing the prospect of greatly enhanced revenues when it moves into the city's new multi-purpose arena for the 2010-11 season, still is trying to use its financial resources wisely.
Q: Do you think Sidney Crosby's injury will lead to everyone else stepping it up? After all, when he was out for a stretch last year, Evgeni Malkin took over and the Pens caught fire.
Mark Chenot, Arlington, Tex.
MOLINARI: The point is moot since Crosby, who missed the Penguins' 3-1 victory against Anaheim because of an apparent injury to his left knee, was back in the lineup for their 3-0 victory against the New York Rangers yesterday, but the Penguins did perform commendably in the game he sat out.
Actually, that might have been not only because Crosby couldn't play, but because of the staggering number of Penguins who didn't dress against Anaheim. Forwards Ruslan Fedotenko, Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis and Mike Zigomanis and defensemen Rob Scuderi, Kris Letang and Sergei Gonchar joined Crosby in street clothes that night.
With such a severely diluted lineup, the Penguins had to rely on a conservative game plan, limiting the number of scoring chances they gave the Ducks and trying to capitalize on whichever ones they were able to generate. That required a commitment from all 18 skaters, and the Penguins got it that night. (That the Ducks were not especially competitive that night didn't hurt, either.)
Your observation about Malkin elevating his game while Crosby was out with a high ankle sprain is dead-on, but the Penguins don't have the overall talent or depth to compensate for the absence of such a key player for an extended period this season. They can, however, try to mitigate the impact of being without a number of regulars by making tactical adjustments, and that's at least part of the reason coach Michel Therrien began to employ a pretty rigid trap last week.