Will the Pens be wheeling and dealing to make the playoffs?
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Q: Do you think the Pens will be active in trading? It would seem they are in need of too many things at this point to be able to put together a team that can get past Round 1, assuming they even make the cut.
Bill Holt, Wheeling, W. Va.
MOLINARI: There's no way of knowing how active the Penguins will be before the trade deadline next Wednesday because deals can't be made unilaterally, but general manager Ray Shero has been quite aggressive for a while about exploring who might be available. Trouble is, teams that are sellers generally wait until the deadline is looming to get involved in serious negotiations, believing that it gives them additional leverage.
Shero has said repeatedly that he will not surrender a valuable asset with the sole intent of qualifying for the playoffs this spring, Basically, that suggests he won't relinquish a high draft choice or quality prospect for a short-term fix in the form of a rental player who likely would be eligible for unrestricted free agency during the offseason.
The Penguins clearly have some pressing needs -- to run though the list yet again, they could use a goal-scoring winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby, some grit and muscle up front and a physical defenseman -- that must be addressed at some point, whether it's in the next week or during the summer.
Still, Disappointing and frustrating as this season has been for the Penguins and their fans, this is no time to stray from the plan of building a team that can be competitive over the long term. If it's possible to give the lineup an immediate upgrade by pulling off a high-impact trade in the next six days, that's fine, as long as the swap also will benefit the franchise in the future.
While the Penguins have some significant personnel issues, this is no need to make moves rooted in panic or to stray from the team-building strategy Shero put in place when he was hired nearly three years ago. The major-league roster needs to be adjusted, not blown up.
Q: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers all started the season playing overseas, and all four fired their coaches. Ironic, or does playing overseas take a toll during the season?
Tom Wagner, Hamilton, N.J.
MOLINARI: This little nugget has gotten a lot of attention since the Rangers fired Tom Renney earlier this week, but the thinking here is that it is mostly a coincidence that four of the six teams that have replaced their coaches this season played their first couple of games in Europe.
There is no way that playing games in Sweden or the Czech Republic or Great Britain or anywhere else on the far side of the Atlantic is an advantage for a team -- those games are a marketing tool intended to benefit the league, not the participating clubs -- but it really shouldn't be that much of a liability, either.
Yes, the teams lost a bit of their traditional training camp because of the need to get to Europe well before the games so they could adjust to their time difference, etc. and travel always takes a toll on the people who do it. But it's not as if the players were crammed into middle seats on commercial flights -- NHL teams travel on chartered planes, where pretty much every need or want is taken into account -- and the clubs were given ample time to recover once they returned to North America.
Sure, there probably were some lingering effects in the days and weeks after the teams got home, but not enough to sabotage an entire season. To give the European games a significant share of the blame for the disappointing seasons those clubs have had would be giving them an excuse they do not deserve.
First Published February 26, 2009 12:00 am