Penguins GM Shero still pondering approach to the draft
June 26, 2013 12:00 PM
In Ray Shero's eyes, a player the caliber of defenseman Kris Letang would, at the very least, be enough to acquire a first-round pick in the NHL draft. But the Penguins general manager is still planning his course of action.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Remember Nathan Moon?
There really isn't much reason to.
Not for anyone who isn't fascinated by Penguins trivia or NHL draft minutiae, anyway.
Moon, a center from Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League, was the Penguins' first selection in the 2008 draft, but it's a bit misleading to put it that way.
Moon, you see, wasn't selected until the fourth round, after 119 other prospects had been claimed.
• When: 3 p.m. Sunday. Draft goes seven rounds
• Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
• First pick: Colorado Avalance.
• Penguins' first pick: No. 77 in third round.
• TV: NBC Sports Network.
He had that distinction because the Penguins traded away their first-, second- and third-rounders in deals that brought them Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, Hal Gill and Georges Laraque, respectively.
Moon, who broke into pro hockey in 2010 with the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs of the Central Hockey League and spent 2012-13 with Evansville (ECHL) and Springfield (American Hockey League), was the headliner in easily the least impressive draft class of general manager Ray Shero's tenure.
The Penguins' other choices in 2008 were goalies Alexander Pechurskiy and Patrick Killeen and defenseman Nicholas D'Agostino. They still own the North American rights to Pechurskiy, who is playing in Russia, and recently signed D'Agostino to an entry-level contract.
The Penguins have had at least one first-round choice in every draft since they selected Moon, who never got a contract with them, but that could change.
Barring a trade, the Penguins' first pick in the draft Sunday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will not come until the third round, when they have two.
But getting an earlier selection remains a possibility.
Shero discussed the concept with his staff and scouts earlier this week and, with this draft widely regarded as the deepest in a decade, figures to thoroughly explore his options as the weekend nears.
"You never know," he said. "You always have to be prepared for that.
"It would be later on in the week, or on the weekend, when we'll know if we can do that."
There certainly are choices to be had, if the buyer is willing to pay. Columbus, for example, owns three picks in the first round, while Montreal and San Jose have three each in the second.
It's conceivable that those teams, and all the others with more than one pick in an early round, will decide to invest them in the future, but they also could opt to swap them for more immediate help.
"If you have extra draft picks, you try to use those as currency to get NHL players," Shero said.
Shero could do something as conservative as swap his two third-rounders for a selection in Round 2, or go big and include an NHL regular in a package that would net a first-rounder and possibly more.
But moving into the first or second round definitely isn't a stand-alone objective. Shero will do that only if he believes it serves the long-term interests of his team.
"If I want to trade one of our young defensemen, I'll get a first-round pick back," he said. "Easily. But that's counter-productive."
There does not appear to be, at least for now, an eye-catching proposal on the table. Of course, that also was the case in 2012, when the deal that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina -- and netted the Penguins a return featuring the No. 8 pick in the first round -- didn't come together until a few hours before the draft.
"At this time last year, I didn't think we were going to get [an extra] first-round pick," Shero said. "So you just never know. That's why you have to be prepared for whatever."
The Penguins have been adamant that they want to retain defenseman Kris Letang, who has a year left on a contract with a salary-cap hit of $3.5 million. But if they conclude that they can't reach an agreement with him that would fit into their financial structure, Letang surely will attract strong interest from teams with attractive picks to offer.
But even if the Penguins stand pat, Shero rejects any comparison between their 2013 draft, in which they have six choices, and the one that yielded Moon and Co.
"We've got two third-round picks," he said. "I feel different about this than I did in ."
There is at least one parallel: In 2008 and 2013, the Penguins sacrificed early round draft choices to add veterans in an ultimately futile attempt to win a Stanley Cup.
That's something Shero apparently wouldn't balk at doing again, under similar circumstances.
"When we made the deals and gave up the first and second this year, I was very prepared to go into the draft without a first- or second-round pick," he said.
He still is. That doesn't mean he's committed to doing it that way, though.
"We'll see what happens," Shero said. "No guarantees."
NOTE -- Turns out the Penguins got a better return on the Eric Tangradi deal than almost anyone realized. The seventh-round choice they received for him from Winnipeg was upgraded to a sixth-rounder when Tangradi met a games-played condition. Tangradi dressed for 36 games with the Jets. The pick the Penguins will get for him is No. 164 overall, up from No. 194.