Penguins make blockbuster trade
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero answers questions about the trade at a press conference yesterday at Mellon Arena.
Marian Hossa, part of the Penguins trade deal.
Colby Armstrong, traded to Atlanta.
Erik Christensen, heading to the Thrashers.
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The NHL trade deadline was a couple of hours away yesterday, but Penguins general manager Ray Shero wasn't thinking about how Marian Hossa might look on Sidney Crosby's right wing, or how Hal Gill and Pascal Dupuis could upgrade the Penguins' penalty-killing.
Wasn't reflecting on any personnel moves, really, because there was little reason to believe he'd be making one.
"At 1 p.m., I had zero going," Shero said.
That changed dramatically as the afternoon progressed and, as the 3 p.m. deadline closed in, Shero completed one of the biggest trades in franchise history. One that suggests he decided it was time to accelerate his deliberate, patient approach to building a Stanley Cup contender.
No, to turbo-charge it.
Shero acquired Hossa, a world-class talent, and Dupuis from Atlanta for forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, highly regarded prospect Angelo Esposito and the Penguins' first-round choice in the June entry draft.
"Even if you make a minor move, it sends a message that they're trying to improve the team," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "One like this, it sends one pretty loud and clear that they want to win now."
The Hossa-Dupuis trade overshadowed the deal Shero had struck a short time earlier, when he sent second- and fifth-round draft choices to Toronto for Gill, a large and physical, but slow-footed, defenseman.
All three are scheduled to join the Penguins for practice today in Boston and figure to be in uniform for their game against the Bruins at 7:08 p.m. tomorrow at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Hossa is the centerpiece of Shero's deadline-day moves, and likely was the most sought-after big name in the league the past few weeks. Montreal had emerged as the apparent favorite to get him, but Shero's offer obviously swayed Thrashers general manager Don Waddell.
Hossa, 29, is 6 feet 1, 208 pounds and has 26 goals and 30 assists in 60 games this season after putting up 43 goals and 57 assists in 82 games in 2006-07. As an accomplished goal scorer, he is a logical candidate to complement the slick-passing Crosby.
"If I play with Sid, that would be great," he said -- although line combinations likely won't be set until Crosby returns from the high ankle sprain that has kept him out since Jan. 18.
The Thrashers decided to trade Hossa, who is making $7 million this season, after they failed to negotiate a contract extension with him, because he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
The Penguins clearly intend to try to negotiate a contract with him, although Shero said he has not discussed that with Hossa or his agent, Ritch Winter. Winter suggested Hossa likely will keep his options open, and a number of teams are expected to try to sign him if he goes on the open market.
"There's risk in anything you do," Shero said.
The rap against Hossa is that he sputters in the playoffs. He did nothing to shake that criticism last spring, when he had no goals and one assist in four games as the Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers.
"I know my production in the playoffs hasn't been the best," Hossa said. "It's behind me. I have a new challenge."
Gill, 32, is 6 foot 7, 250 pounds, and tends to be most effective against bigger forwards, including former Penguin Jaromir Jagr. His game hardly is tailored to the "new" NHL, although Gill's exceptional reach helps to compensate for his limited mobility.
"With Hal's game, it is what it is," Shero said. "There are chinks in the armor for most players."
While Hossa and Dupuis will be unrestricted free agents this summer, Gill is under contract for next season, when he will make $2.1 million.
Dupuis, who can play all three forward positions, has 10 goals and five assists in 62 games this season, but he isn't the reason many of the Penguins believe they have cemented their place among the Eastern Conference's elite clubs.
"I thought our big trade was [going to be] getting Crosby back," right winger Georges Laraque said. "Now we're getting Sid and Hossa. Oh my God, That's just unbelievable.
"I don't see how we can't finish first overall in the conference, get home-ice advantage and really be in great position for the playoffs."
First Published February 27, 2008 12:00 am