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Because of the strong response to Bill Ratay's Mellon Arena memories printed in the Q&A recently, similar submissions from other readers interested in sharing their recollections will be posted in the Penguins area of PG-Plus. Those pieces can be sent via the Q&A submission form or to DMolinari@Post-Gazette.com
Q: Would the Penguins consider trading for Ray Whitney? He has great creativity around the net and could be that winger the Penguins could use down the stretch drive and Stanley cup playoffs with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. He seems to me he would be a player that the Penguins could get for a light cost to their core (say a draft pick and a minor leaguer).
Andrew Kosek, Sunbury, Ohio
MOLINARI: Yes, Whitney would seem to be a very nice fit for the Penguins, who could use a right-handed winger capable of playing on one of their top two lines and working on the No. 1 power-play unit.
He leads Carolina in goals (16) and points (39) and is in the final season of a contract that carries a salary-cap hit of $3.55 million, which means that when it is pro-rated for the final month or so of the season, the Penguins probably could squeeze it in.
And while Whitney hardly is in the prime of his career -- he will turn 38 May 8 -- Bill Guerin was in the same age bracket when the Penguins acquired him in 2009, and that didn't prevent him from being a major contributor in their Stanley Cup drive.
The trouble is, all the things that make Whitney so appealing to the Penguins have attracted the attention of other teams that plan to be buyers as the March 3 trade deadline approaches, and that is sure to drive up the Hurricanes' asking price.
While nothing is certain at this point, the thinking here is that the bidding will get to be too rich for the Penguins and that if, as expected, they go shopping for a top-six winger, they will end up looking elsewhere.
Q: In 2006, the Hurricanes and Oilers were in the Stanley Cup final; today, they are 29th and 30th in the league standings. Assume this is the salary cap in action to create league parity. You always mention how the Penguins are up against the cap. Could this happen in Pittsburgh?
Jerry Frissora, Vienna, Va.
MOLINARI: It should be noted up front that the salary cap alone cannot establish parity in the NHL; actually, that is more the role of the entry draft, in which the worst teams have the best choices. The idea is that if a bad team uses good draft choices wisely, it can become competitive, while teams that have success get to replenish their talent supply only after those that have struggled have had a chance. (Except in those cases where the bad teams trade away those good draft choices, of course.)
Managing the salary cap effectively is critical for any team that wants to be a force in the league on more than a sporadic basis, and the Penguins aren't exempt from that. While most of their core players are locked up for the next few years, if general manager Ray Shero makes a few bad decisions on free agents (his own, or those from other teams), the impact could be reflected in the team's record pretty quickly. When a team keeps its payroll as close to the cap ceiling as the Penguins have, there is very little margin for error, especially a seven-figure one.
So far, Shero has had a rather conservative approach during his nearly four years as GM, often allowing valuable role players to leave because they wanted more money or years than he deemed prudent to give them, and the Penguins have one championship and another appearance in the Stanley Cup final to show for it.