The New York Islanders' Matt Moulson (26) played well against the Penguins a year ago in the playoffs.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penguins general manager Ray Shero has had 41/2 months to find out what kind of team he has put together. * And now he'll have 10 days to change it. * The NHL's Olympics roster freeze ends at midnight, and the trade deadline is 3 p.m. March 5.
Precedent says Shero likely will make a personnel move or two, but he has been, as usual, noncommittal.
He also has said he won't rule out making either a "hockey trade" -- a swap that brings in one or more players who have at least a season remaining on their contracts -- or a classic deadline deal that would add "rental players" whose deals expire this summer.
Salary-cap space shapes up as a major factor in Shero's actions, and he doesn't have much of it with which to work.
Capgeek.com, the foremost authority on such matters, estimates the Penguins have, at most, $2,585,000 in annual cap space available, and notes the actual figure might be lower because they have sought Long Term Injury relief for several players.
Shero, however, could free up some cap space by assigning players to the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre or by including one or more from the major league roster in a trade.
The Penguins are believed to have at least some interest in a first-line right winger to fill in for Pascal Dupuis, a bottom-six winger with some grit and an experienced defenseman to enhance their toughness and depth.
If Shero opts to bring in rentals, as he did in 2013 with Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray, some players from teams doomed to miss the playoffs who might get consideration are:
* New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald. He moves the puck well and is heady and composed in his own zone. With a cap hit of just $550,000, more than a few teams figure to call Islanders general manager Garth Snow about him.
* Buffalo left winger Steve Ott. Like MacDonald, Ott figures to generate a lot of interest, even though his cap hit is $2.95 million. He can be effective at both ends of the rink, possesses exceptional intangibles and a knack for infuriating opponents.
* Florida right winger Brad Boyes. He has a team-high 15 goals in 56 games and, with a cap hit of $1 million, would not force the Penguins to tamper with their major league roster. His solid offensive skills and instincts aside, he tends to be streaky and isn't very effective along the boards.
* Buffalo left winger Matt Moulson. He entered pro hockey as a Penguins draft choice, although he never signed with them. Moulson will be one of the hottest commodities because he's a proven goal-scorer with a cap hit ($3,133,333) many teams would be willing to take.
* Calgary right winger Lee Stempniak. A capable, though inconsistent, goal-scorer, Stempniak has a cap hit ($2.5 million) that might appeal to clubs that will shy away from teammate Mike Cammalleri, who is more of an offensive force but carries a $6 million cap hit.
* Edmonton right winger Ales Hemsky. There might not be a more talented guy available between now and the deadline. Might not be a less predictable one, either. Hemsky's offensive gifts are world-class, but he plays small and his intensity fluctuates. There's also the matter of a $5 million cap hit.
* Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder. Has a reputation for being smart and reliable in his own end, although he's one of many Sabres having a forgettable season. While it's possible that he'd benefit from a change of scenery, giving him one would be a $3.375 million gamble.
* Florida center Marcel Goc. Versatile and able to contribute all over the ice, Goc never has put up points the way it seems he could. Still, he's a good faceoff man with a manageable cap hit of $1.7 million.
The Sabres, Islanders, Panthers, Flames and Oilers are the only clubs more than four points out of a playoff berth today. and teams will play only a handful of games before the deadline. So, it's possible that those will be the only five sellers between now and March 5.
That means the selection of players could be limited -- and the asking prices even more inflated than usual -- for the Penguins, as well as every other club interested in fortifying its lineup for a run at the Stanley Cup.
➤ Saturday: at Chicago ... The Penguins face the Blackhawks at Soldier Field, their first game outdoors since the Winter Classic Jan. 1, 2011, at Heinz Field. They no doubt hope this game turns out better for them than that one did, on just about every level.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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