Ray Shero and the Pittsburgh Penguins certainly surprised many of us with the last minute deal today, especially given the pre-trade day belief that the Penguins were not looking for a blockbuster deal. It would be hard to refute that snatching Marian Hossa, one of the league’s top wingers, to play alongside one of the league’s most talented centers is anything but a blockbuster deal. The Penguins also got left winger Pascal Dupuis in the deal that sent Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 1st round draft pick to Atlanta. But will it be a good trade? Have the Penguins given up too much for what some consider to be a short-term rental in Hossa? In June will it be viewed as a great trade, or a bust? Only time will truly tell.
According to Shero, this deal wasn’t even on the plate at 1PM this afternoon, just 2 short hours before the deadline. There were other unstated deals being considered, but none of them panned out. Ray Shero was looking at the prospect of finishing the trade day without pulling the trigger on anyone. But somewhere late in the day the deal came through, sending Hossa to Pittsburgh instead of Ottawa or New Jersey. The Penguins also picked up giant, stay at home defenseman Hal Gill from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2nd and 5th round pick.
While I am still not sure what to think about the Hossa deal in terms of the long run, it is a bold move by the Penguins in the short run. In terms of on-ice assets, they gave up Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen. We were likely to trade at least one of them away regardless of this deal. Christensen has been great at the shootout, but pretty inconsistent outside of that. Armstrong has been a physical presence, but has also been inconsistent on the scoresheet. On most accounts, both players are 3rd line talents. The biggest concern with losing them (especially Armstrong) is an indeterminate impact it may have on the intangible element of team chemistry. It is no secret that Colby Armstrong has helped lighten the load for Sidney Crosby in the locker room. It is unclear what his loss may do to team chemistry. The Penguins also lost Angelo Esposito in the deal, a highly regarded, but yet unproven prospect whose capital may have lessened over the past several months, as well as a first round draft pick. Given the high performing youth that the Penguins already have on the roster, I don’t view this as a critical concession for the immediate future of the team.
So what does Marian Hossa bring? Talent, and plenty of it. He is the poster child of a scoring winger that many have said this team needs to complement the talent of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. He has scored 80+ points in each of his last 4 seasons, and had a career high 100-points (43G, 57A) last season. This season, he has 56-points (26G, 30A) in 60-games for Atlanta. Most people expect that a Crosby/Hossa combination will be an explosive pairing. It would give Sidney Crosby a world class natural winger that may be able to more readily take advantage of his speed and creativity. It also frees up Evgeni Malkin to continue his domination as a natural center. But what will happen after the season ends? I guess it will depend upon what happens through the remainder of this season and into the playoffs. It is very possible that Hossa’s stint with the Penguins may only last through the post season. One could easily see the Penguins having difficulty trying to retain a trio of top forwards under the current salary cap restrictions. These are thechallenges that the Penguins will face down stream.
In the short run, this trade is a big win for Pittsburgh. Aside from the obvious upgrade to the Penguins offense, it gives the Penguins a leg up in the wide open Eastern Conference. In my opinion, more importantly than adding Hossa to the Penguins lineup is the fact that it prevented Ottawa or Montreal from adding him to theirs. In a Conference where the top 3 positions are separated by just 2-points, this can only be seen as a huge advantage for Pittsburgh. The only potential near term downside is the affect it will have on team chemistry by taking Colby Armstrong out of the lineup. Add to the trade a decent winger in Pascal Dupuis, and I find it hard to argue with this bold move by the Penguins. It is definitely a trade focused on this season, and not necessarily the long run……but isn’t that what trade day is all about? Good job Ray Shero!