The April 3 NHL trade deadline is little more than two weeks away, and teams should be fine-tuning the list of players they'd like to add for the stretch drive and playoffs.
And, while there likely will be some conventional "hockey trades" -- basically, de als that could be made at any time of year because they make sense from a strictly on-ice perspective -- struck over the next 17 days, history says there will be more than a few involving "rental" players, guys scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the season who are employed by clubs likely to miss the playoffs.
In recent years, general manager Ray Shero has tried to bolster the Penguins' lineup by acquiring a number of such players, including Gary Roberts, Bill Guerin, Jordan Leopold, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alex Kovalev.
Although the playoff fields for this season are far from set, here are some prospective rental players who might change teams before the deadline, along with their full-season salary-cap hits:
• Calgary RW Jarome Iginla ($7 million): Easily the most-discussed name on this list, especially since he overcame a horrible start and has begun to find the net with regularity. The Penguins are believed to be one of many teams to show at least cursory interest in him.
• Washington C Mike Ribeiro ($5 million): A skilled playmaker who has put up more than a point per game with the Capitals. Should draw interest from clubs looking to add a dimension to their offense.
• Buffalo D Robyn Regehr ($4.02 million) Has long been a quality shutdown man, but he's one of many Sabres having a miserable season. Instead of being one of the most coveted free-agents-to-be, Regehr might just be the best of those who were born in Brazil.
Matchup: Boston Bruins vs. Penguins, 12:38 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
TV, Radio: WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Tuukka Rask for Bruins; Tomas Vokoun for Penguins.
Penguins: Are 7-1-0 vs. Northeast Division, including 3-2 win Tuesday against Bruins. ... Are 3-1 on second day of back-to-back games. ... Kris Letang has assists in seven home games in a row.
Bruins: Are 5-1 in past six games. ... Have top road penalty-kill (97.9 percent) and No. 3 road power play (25.7 percent). ... Are 5-0-0 in afternoon games.
Hidden stat: The Bruins have killed 25 penalties in a row.
• Edmonton D Ryan Whitney ($4 million): Seems to be getting his game back in order after being a healthy scratch seven times over an 11-game stretch last month. Still possesses some offensive talents, but can be as suspect in his own end as he was during his days with the Penguins.
• Buffalo D Jordan Leopold ($3 million) Another Sabre suffering through a season he won't be able to forget quickly enough.
• Calgary D Anton Babchuk ($2.5 million): Has a good shot, but also a reputation as an underachiever whose defensive game and willingness to compete have been questioned.
• Edmonton D Ladislav Smid ($2.25 million): An intriguing possibility for a number of clubs, because he's big, tough, smart and effective in a shutdown role, though inconsistency has been an issue at times. Will be quite popular if he goes on the open market this summer.
• Edmonton D Mark Fistric ($1.475 million): Big and tough and a ferocious hitter, but not particularly quick or suited to duty above the No. 3 pairing.
• Colorado RW Milan Hejduk ($2 million): His hands are still good at 37, but his speed has slipped. That might be moot, because Hejduk has a no-trade clause he might not be inclined to waive.
Job security haunts coaches
A month ago, Dan Bylsma became the first coach in Penguins history to be on the job for four years without interruption.
That's noteworthy, considering the franchise has been around since 1967 and has enjoyed considerable on-ice success most of the time for the past quarter-century or so.
Little job security isn't unique, however, to Penguins coaches.
It's an issue for coaches around the NHL and has been for decades. And there's no reason to think it will change anytime soon.
"It's not something I completely agree with, but it's just the way pro sports work, and the way salaries work," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Your hear that expression, 'It's easier to replace one guy than to try to move a bunch of different contracts that are tough to move.' I think a lot of coaches fall victim to that.
"I think a lot of players now -- this is definitely a bad quality some people have -- realize that, and I think a lot of players take advantage of that, maybe in a negative way.
"They know that if they don't respond to a coach, they'll probably get a coaching change before [the player] is moved. That's probably not the best way to go about things, but I think that's the reality of how sports works these days."
The Week Ahead
Today: vs. Boston ... Why did the Bruins bother leaving town? This will be their second game here in the six days, although they probably don't care to dwell on how the previous one ended. At left: Zdeno Chara.
Tuesday: vs. Washington ... The Penguins have a chance to sweep a season series from the Capitals for the first time since going 4-0 in 2006-07.
Friday: at New York Islanders ... The Islanders flopped in their last game against the Penguins, a 6-1 loss at Consol Energy Center last Sunday, and can't afford to give away too many more points if they want to grab an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
First Published March 17, 2013 4:00 AM