Q: What are the chances the Pens make a run at Marian Hossa at the trade deadline if Atlanta can't get him re-signed? Surely he would be a rental, but imagine what that extra scoring power would do to an offense with only three serious major goal-scorers. Do you think it would be worth the push for the Cup?
Bob Shelton, Greenfield
MOLINARI: There's no question that Hossa has the potential to be a real difference-maker for some team this spring, even though his personal playoff history is rather lackluster (13 goals and 22 assists in 55 games), but it does not make sense -- on several levels -- for the Penguins to pursue him if the Thrashers put him on the market.
It would be different if the Penguins were just one quality winger away from a serious run at a Stanley Cup but, at this stage in their development, that simply isn't the case. A year or two from now, making a high-stakes move to upgrade a specific area of their lineup might be a no-brainer for management. At this point, however, quite the opposite is true.
For starters, the asking price for Hossa -- again, assuming he is made available before the Feb. 26 trade deadline -- figure to be exorbitant, because it's reasonable to believe several teams will be seriously interested in trading for him. Atlanta was on the other side of the equation a year ago, when it grossly overpaid to get Keith Tkachuk from St. Louis, so is well aware of how much an accomplished veteran can be worth at this time of year. For the Penguins to surrender a number of quality assets -- be it young players, top prospects or high draft choices -- just wouldn't be prudent to get a player who might be around for just a few months.
Even if the Penguins were able to acquire Hossa, there's no guarantee they'd be able to re-sign him and, if they were, it likely would involve giving him a fairly long-term contract worth $7 million or so per season. Because retaining their own players -- particularly young talent like Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury -- is the Penguins' top priority, it's far from certain that they would have the resources, let alone the salary-cap space, to make such a commitment to Hossa.
Q: While watching Monday night's game against the New York Rangers, I noticed that many Penguins fans still feel a large amount of resentment toward Jaromir Jagr (obviously for the way he left the team years ago). After he's retired, do you think that a) the Penguins organization will retire his number 68, and b) that the resentment of so many fans will fade?
Chris, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
MOLINARI: People who buy tickets to sporting events are allowed to behave any want they want (provided they don't break any laws or other regulations, of course), but it really is mystifying why so many people at Mellon Arena feel the need to boo Jagr every time he touches the puck here. No matter how they feel about the circumstances that preceded his departure in 2001, nearly seven years have passed, and it seems reasonable to suggest that it's time to move on. (Based on the volume and tone of e-mails submitted to the Q&A over the past few days, a lot of other people feel that way, too.)
Holding onto that much hostility can't be healthy and, frankly, the treatment Jagr receives here probably says as much, or more, about the people doing the booing than it does about him. It certainly didn't reflect well on them that Jagr, in his role as the Rangers' captain, was jeered Monday even as he presented linesman Mark Pare with a stick signed by the entire New York team to mark Pare's 2,000th game. (Sidney Crosby did the same with a stick signed by the Penguins.)
Jagr's accomplishments during his 11 seasons here would make him a worthy candidate for having his number retired someday, but the Penguins seem intent -- commendably so, in the opinion of the moderator of this forum -- on making that a most exclusive honor. The thinking here, at least for now, is that the Penguins won't retire another number for 15 years or so and that when it happens, it will be 87, not 68.