On the Penguins: GM Ray Shero constantly remaking the franchise

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Ray Shero wasn't gambling Tuesday when he traded Mark Letestu to Columbus.

Letestu might well go on to have a productive career with the Blue Jackets -- his miserable start to this season aside, Letestu is an intelligent and versatile player -- while the fourth-round draft choice the Penguins got in the deal might yield a guy who never sees an NHL game, let alone plays in one.

But with some prominent forwards close to returning to active duty -- has anyone noticed that Sidney Crosby hasn't played in a while? -- Shero, the Penguins general manager, wanted to clear space on his 23-man roster. And creating a little salary-cap breathing room didn't hurt, either.

Shero could have tried to send Letestu to their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre, but the Blue Jackets' willingness to spend a draft choice to get Letestu confirms that he wouldn't have made it through waivers.

Although the Letestu trade is nowhere near the most significant Shero has made, it generated more attention than, say, Mike Zigomanis for considerations. (Never mind that Zigomanis was a nice addition.) A look back at Shero's biggest deals (and a few others), listed chronologically, and how they worked out.

Gary Roberts from Florida for Noah Welch

The circumstances: The Penguins wanted to add some experience and leadership -- ideally, from a guy with a mean streak and sharp elbows -- in 2007 as they prepared for their first playoff appearance in six years.

The bottom line: Roberts didn't stop at being a locker-room force and solid player. He became a virtual folk hero.

Georges Laraque from Phoenix for Daniel Carcillo and a No. 3 draft choice

The circumstances: The Penguins craved a top-shelf enforcer, and Laraque still was among the most-feared heavyweights in the league.

The bottom line: Laraque did his job effectively, although he could have been more assertive about it. Carcillo, on those occasions when he's not melting down, is a decent player and accomplished agitator.

A No. 3 draft choice from Minnesota for Dominic Moore

The circumstances: Moore had fallen out of favor with then-coach Michel Therrien, at least in part because he didn't block shots as often as Therrien would have liked.

The bottom line: Moore has continued to be an effective player and was part of the Tampa Bay team that beat the Penguins in Round 1 of the playoffs in April. The draft pick the Penguins got for him was used on Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who has yet to take a shift in the NHL.

Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a No. 1 draft choice

The circumstances: The Penguins believed they were poised to contend for a Stanley Cup and felt an elite winger could put them over the top.

The bottom line: The Penguins came within two victories of a championship and didn't suffer from paying what seemed, at the time, like a high price to land Hossa and Dupuis. The Thrashers used the draft choice on Daultan Leveille, who still is at Michigan State. Dupuis is the only one still playing for the team that acquired him.

Hal Gill from Toronto for a No. 2 draft choice

The circumstances: With the playoffs looming, the Penguins were seeking a shutdown-type defenseman

The bottom line: Gill helped them win a Cup in 2009. The prospect Toronto drafted, right winger Jimmy Hayes, subsequently was traded to Chicago.

Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi from Anaheim for Ryan Whitney

The circumstances: The Penguins had a bounty of offensive defensemen and were in the market for a top-six winger.

The bottom line: Will go down as the best deal Shero has made if Tangradi ever reaches his potential as a power forward. Kunitz for Whitney would have been a fair swap, especially when the Penguins had enough skilled depth on their blue line to part with a finesse defenseman.

Bill Guerin from New York Islanders for a No. 3 draft choice

The circumstances: The Penguins, having lost Hossa to free agency the previous summer, were searching for someone with a bit of a scoring touch to play alongside Sidney Crosby.

The bottom line: Guerin, at 38, wasn't a sure thing to fill that void on the No. 1 line, but joining the Penguins revived him, and he did enough to earn a contract for the next season.

Jordan Leopold from Florida for a No. 2 draft choice

The circumstances: The Penguins, widely believed to be shopping for a physical, shutdown defenseman, actually had set their sights on one with puck-moving ability.

The bottom line: Leopold should have been a bigger contributor than he was, although a concussion during Round 1 of the playoffs had something to do with that.

Alexei Ponikarovsky and a No. 6 draft choice from Toronto for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula

The circumstances: The Penguins wanted to add a goal-scoring winger for their title defense in the 2010 playoffs.

The bottom line: The price was steep -- Caputi was viewed as one of the Penguins' top prospects -- but Ponikarovsky looked like he could be a good fit with Evgeni Malkin. He wasn't. It's probably not much consolation that Caputi still hasn't become a regular in the NHL.

James Neal and Matt Niskanen from Dallas for Alex Goligoski

The circumstances: The Penguins' never-ending (or so it seemed) search for a goal-scoring winger was on again.

The bottom line: This is looking like a deal that works out well for all concerned. Neal sputtered after arriving, but has been a goal-scoring terror through the first month-plus of this season. Niskanen has capitalized on the opportunity to re-establish himself as an NHL defenseman, and Goligoski was sensational for the Stars last season, although his performance seems to have slipped this season.

Alex Kovalev for a No. 7 draft choice

The circumstances: The Penguins were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle in a low-risk deal.

The bottom line: They didn't.

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.


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