Ray Shero has been evaluating his players since the earliest drills of training camp last fall, and long ago determined what the Penguins' most pressing personnel needs are.
The same surely is true of every other general manager of a National Hockey League club, too.
Oh, their lists are constantly being fine-tuned -- and occasionally overhauled -- because of variables like hot streaks and injuries and extended slumps. For the most part, though, GMs have had a pretty good handle on how they'd like to alter their lineups for quite a while, and a lot of them will be able to do it before the trade deadline at 3 p.m. March 4.
Precedent, however, suggests that, in most cases, it won't happen much before that. Never mind that logic says that if a team will benefit from the presence of a particular type of player on and after March 4, that guy likely could have helped it a week -- or a month, or more -- earlier, as well.
While there are no rules or regulations that oblige teams to put off making trades until the deadline is looming -- last February, Shero finalized the deal that brought Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta just minutes before trading had to stop -- that is how it plays out every winter.
Generally, it's for the same reason that negotiations in just about every line of work tend to drag on until there is no choice but to make a decision: One party, or both, is hoping to gain an edge, to strike a deal that's a bit, or perhaps a lot, better than what was available earlier.
Sometimes, it's a GM attempting to get a seller to lower his price because the seller fears being stuck with an asset he would prefer to unload. More often, it's the seller who's looking to make certain that he gets the best possible return for whatever he's giving up.
"You might be able to get less [for a player] today than at the deadline," Shero said. "If you're selling, you want to go to the end to maximize [the value] of an asset that you have."
That strategy has a few potential flaws -- there's always the danger that someone being offered around could be seriously injured, as happened with New York Islanders center Doug Weight, who had been regarded as a likely rental player, a few days ago -- but remains popular for the best possible reason: It works. Not always, but often enough that few GMs are willing to abandon it.
Don Waddell of the Thrashers probably won't, because by holding on to Hossa, the most-prized commodity as the 2008 deadline approached, he was able to get the bidding to a point that allowed him to net Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and first-round draft choice for Hossa and Dupuis.
The annual Pee-Wee tournament in Quebec City is one of the premier events in youth hockey and draws teams and attention from around the world.
Organizers say there will be about 2,300 players from 16 countries involved this year.
There also will be an exhibition game that figures to attract interest from people outside its traditional audience, even though it won't have an impact on how the tournament plays out.
The Amateur Penguins will face the Wings from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Wednesday, with an individual matchup -- Lemieux vs. Crosby -- that would be marquee material anywhere in the hockey universe.
In this case, it's Austin Lemieux, son of Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and a member of the Amateur Penguins, against Taylor Crosby, younger sister of Sidney Crosby and a goalie for a boys' team from Cole Harbour.
No word on whether the famous father and celebrated sibling have worked out a wager on the outcome or whether there's been any significant trash-talking around the Lemieux residence since the game was scheduled.
Videotape has been a popular teaching tool in the NHL for quite a few years, and coaches can use it to instruct players on pretty much any facet of the game.
Eric Godard, however, prefers a low-tech approach to his role as the Penguins' resident enforcer.
Rather than do a frame-by-frame assessment of how heavyweights with whom he might end up trading punches go about their work, Godard is interested in acquiring only the most basic information.
So when he logs on to YouTube to check out some of the scraps posted there, it's generally for the entertainment value.
"I've looked at fights to see if guys are righty or lefty," he said. "I don't really break anything down. I try to see if he's lefty or righty, so I know what's coming."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .