Question: Can you offer any explanation for the Darryl Sydor trade? This seems like a completely lateral, if not backward, trade for the Penguins. Both Sydor and Philippe Boucher are older players who are past their primes, have the same cap hit and have been healthy scratches recently. I assume Boucher will be getting the same lack of playing time Sydor received. The only thing they seem to have gained is a right-handed shot, but looking at Boucher's point totals, he doesn't seem to use it much. I always thought the plan with Sydor was to trade him for some of the missing pieces later in the year. Did Ray Shero realize he wasn't going to get anything for Sydor? Is there something the scouting staff saw in a 35-year-old that no one else has seen in his 18 years in the league? Do you think the Penguins will be able to get the same value out of Boucher at the deadline they would have from Sydor, even if it wasn't going to be much?
Aaron Josephson, Boston
MOLINARI: First of all, understand that this deal was not envisioned as a epic transaction by either team; it was an exchange of defensemen who are in the latter stages of their careers and could be rejuvenated by a change of scenery. Or, in Sydor's case, the opportunity to actually dress for more than half of his team's games. (Boucher, conversely, was a healthy scratch Saturday for the first time this season, and only because the trade already had been worked out and Dallas didn't want to risk having him get injured.)
That said, Sydor wasn't likely to rise above No. 6 on the Penguins' defensive depth chart unless there were more injuries on their blue line, and he was that high mostly because Mark Eaton has not performed to expectations for most of this season. Boucher, conversely, gives the Penguins a second right-handed shot on defense (Kris Letang is the other) and has a long history of being productive from the point.
It's true that he had no goals and three assists in 16 games this season, but it's also true that he piled up 19 goals and earned a place in the NHL All-Star Game two seasons ago. It probably is unrealistic to expect Boucher to return to that level at age 35, but his mere presence on the point could help the power play. Or, at the very least, enable the Penguins to reduce the number of shorthanded goals they allow.
Whether dealing Sydor at the deadline in an effort to address some of the Penguins' personnel needs was the front office's long-term plan isn't known -- general manager Ray Shero and his staff don't make a habit of briefing outsiders on their trade strategies -- but he was a candidate to be moved at some point if the Penguins were satisfied with their depth on defense. He was not, however, likely to command a price higher than a late-round draft choice, let alone the top-six winger the Penguins need.
While it would not be prudent for the Penguins to count on Boucher to have a major impact on how the rest of their season plays out, there is enough about him -- the right-handed shot, the history of productivity -- to suggest that it isn't entirely out of the question. In the worst-case scenario, he can give the team the same kind of depth and insurance Sydor provided, so the potential rewards seem considerably greater than the possible risks.
Q: What's the thinking behind putting Paul Bissonette on waivers? He has performed well in the games he's been in, fighting at "the right time" and he fits in well on the fourth line. Eric Godard, on the other hand, seems to always take bad penalties, hasn't sent half the messages to opponents that Bissonette has and looks out of place holding a hockey stick.
Brian Altmann, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
MOLINARI: Bissonnette was the Penguins' feel-good story of the past few months -- a guy who earned a spot on the major-league roster less than a year after being all but formally removed from the organizational depth chart -- but he dressed for just six of the 16 games they played before he was assigned to their farm team in Wilkes-Barre Friday.
Bissonnette established himself as a fearless fighter and a terrific team guy, and is well-liked by his teammates here. However, he underwent a major position switch last season, going from defense to left wing, and at age 23, needs to be playing in games, not watching them. While he overcame some staggering odds to claim a job in the NHL this season, Bissonnette has to continue to develop it he wants to become a regular at this level. In light of the commitment he has shown during the past year, betting against him doing so probably wouldn't be wise.
Godard fills a pretty narrow role -- he's a fighter -- and it is not the same niche as Bissonnette. Godard is the Penguins' resident heavyweight, the guy counted on to take on opponents' toughest enforcers. Bissonnette isn't in the same weight class and, while he's the kind of guy who would sacrifice almost anything if he believed it would benefit his team, would be in over his head against a lot of the guys with whom Godard trades punches on a regular basis.