Penguins get Ekman in trade with Sharks
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Winger Nils Ekman, the Penguins' latest acquisition, shouldn't find it daunting to play with what could be two of the top young centers in the league.
After all, playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin would probably seem like a nice fit for someone who played on one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL last season, with league-leading scorer Joe Thornton and high-scoring winger Jonathan Cheechoo.
Ekman was obtained yesterday along with German goaltending prospect Patrick Ehelechner in a trade with San Jose for the 2007 second-round draft pick the Penguins got from Carolina in March in the Mark Recchi deal.
"He's a guy who can shoot the puck, and he has speed, which you need in this league," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said of Ekman, 30. "Defensively, he's very responsible. He's just a good all-around player."
One with impressive numbers and credentials.
Ekman, 6 feet and 185 pounds, had 21 goals, a career-high 36 assists for a career-high 57 points last season, giving him back-to-back NHL seasons with 20 goals and 50 points. His plus-50 rating over the past two seasons is first among NHL forwards.
During the lockout season of 2004-05, he had 18 goals, 45 points for Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League.
In '03-04, Ekman was 11th in voting for the Selke Award, given to the best defensive forward.
The defensive aspect of his game "is great, but he's able to put up points, too," said Shero, who said Ekman can play either side and should be among the team's top six forwards.
Ekman is in Sweden for the offseason and could not be reached.
Ehelechner, 21, split last season between German clubs Manheim and Duisburg. In 27 games, he had a 3.68 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage.
Shero said Ehelechner, who has two years on his contract, played in Germany partly because the Sharks have a glut of young goaltenders and not enough places for them to get playing time in the minor leagues.
It's possible, though, that Ehelechner, who played two years of junior hockey in Canada in 2003-04 and '04-05, will remain in his native country.
"My hope is that he'll come over this year and play, but we'll see what his plans are," Shero said. "If not this year, maybe next year."
This was the second trade in two days for Shero, who was hired in May. It was also the second 2007 draft pick he has given up, but he said that's not necessarily going to become a habit.
"I've traded two in the past two days, but we still have eight for next year," he said.
That includes a first-rounder, a second-rounder, none in the third round and three in the fourth round.
One or more of the four bidders for the Penguins are giving consideration to upping their offers.
First Published July 21, 2006 12:00 am