Sure, Ray Shero inherited a wealth of players, led by centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, when he was hired as Penguins general manager in May 2006. Players anyone would like to build around.
Perhaps that's why Shero has not won the NHL's general manager of the year award, something that was started in 2010.
If his players had a vote -- and they don't -- they would find all kinds of reasons that Shero would be among those on the list when the finalists are announced today.
"Somebody said on Twitter that Ray Shero is the kid in the schoolyard who trades his apple and banana and gets candy and a piece of cake and the [other] guy's new pair of shoes," winger Pascal Dupuis said.
Shero has a history of acquiring players who have prospered with the Penguins -- Dupuis being one of them -- and often at what might be considered a bargain. In February 2011, for example, he traded defenseman Alex Goligoski to Dallas for winger James Neal, a 40-goal scorer in 2011-12, and Matt Niskanen, a regular among the team's defensemen.
Over the past year, several Penguins said, Shero has done some of his finest work.
It started in June, when he traded a seventh-round pick to Washington for goaltender Tomas Vokoun, then signed the impending free agent to a two-year, $4 million contract.
Vokoun was a strong backup to Marc-Andre Fleury all season and, when Fleury struggled against the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs, Vokoun stepped in to pitch a shutout in Game 5 and was the winning goalie Saturday in a 4-3 Penguins overtime win that eliminated the Islanders and set up a second-round matchup with Ottawa.
Later in June, when Shero couldn't re-sign center Jordan Staal, considered one of the team's core players, he swung a deal with Carolina, getting a more prototypical third-line center in Brandon Sutter, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft (defenseman Derrick Pouliot) and defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin for Staal.
He also signed rugged winger Tanner Glass and defenseman Mark Eaton.
Shero then rolled up his sleeves in the days leading to the April trade deadline. He traded for future Hall of Fame winger Jarome Iginla, former Dallas captain Brenden Morrow, versatile forward Jussi Jokinen and hulking defenseman Douglas Murray -- without giving up anyone from his NHL roster.
"He's finding ways to make additions without subtractions," Penguins winger Matt Cooke said.
"Obviously, expectations are high here and you want to win," defenseman Paul Martin said. "Some of the moves he made at the deadline [reflect] that that's what's going on. I think they were great moves. Obviously, they've been big helping us down the stretch.
"He'd definitely be up there as one of the top candidates."
Shero traded draft picks and dipped some into his cache of defensive prospects, but he has loaded his team for a potential run at the Stanley Cup while remaining under the NHL's salary cap.
"It's a short period of time knowing him, but he keyed in on some areas where he thought the team needed to be improved," Morrow said. "If you look at the team moving forward, he probably didn't give up a whole lot of assets from the team to bring in the guys he did for a playoff run and adding depth. A lot of smart moves."
Crosby, Malkin, defensemen Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik, and Fleury remain from the nucleus that greeted Shero, and he has built around them.
"He's definitely one of the best hockey minds out there," said winger Chris Kunitz, another previous Shero trade acquisition. "He finds guys who can work with the elite talent that they have on this team."
The general manager of the year award is decided by a vote of league's 30 GMs and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media at the conclusion of the regular season.
"He would be well deserving" of the award, Niskanen said. "He's worked hard at bettering our group."
About 2,000 tickets for Game 1 and Game 2 of the Penguins' second-round playoff series against Ottawa will go on sale at noon today. The schedule for the series has not been announced, but the first two games will be this week at Consol Energy Center. As the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins have home-ice advantage. The tickets will be available online at www.ticketmaster.com, at the Consol Energy Center box office, local Ticketmaster locations or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. ... The Penguins, after playing and traveling Saturday night, did not practice Sunday.mobilehome - penguins
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly First Published May 13, 2013 4:00 AM