While it would be silly to assume Pittsburgh will benefit from Evgeni Malkin's ACL tear, which could very well sideline him for the remainder of the season, his injury could add a significant wrinkle to the upcoming trade deadline for the Penguins -- both in terms of flexibility and terms of need.
With Malkin out, Sidney Crosby's slow return from a concussion and Mark Letestu's current absence with an upper-body injury, the Penguins are currently missing three of their top four centers and become more likely to look at adding depth down the middle before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. One player expected to be on the block who could be appealing to Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero is New Jersey center Jason Arnott, who has postseason experience and a championship pedigree that could make him an attractive short-term fix for the Pens' injury woes.
If Pittsburgh decides it is comfortable at center once Crosby and Letestu are back, they could feasibly search for help on the wing at the deadline. When Crosby is healthy, he and Jordan Staal still provide very formidable pivots to anchor the Penguins' top two lines, meaning the considerable cap space opened by Malkin's injury -- roughly $8.1 million -- gives Pittsburgh an enormous amount of flexibility if it chooses to address other needs. The only catch for the Penguins is that the added cap flexibility only will help them this spring as Malkin and his cap hit will be back next season. As a result, any major acquisition would have to be moved after the season or be in the final year of its contract.
With Marc-Andre Fleury in net and a solid defensive corps, the wing would seem the most likely area for Shero to attend to if he chooses to do so. Where Pittsburgh would go is anyone's guess, though if Edmonton chooses to move Ales Hemsky or Dustin Penner, the Penguins could certainly make the numbers work. And if Shero truly wants to dream big, could a run at Calgary's Jarome Iginla be in the mix?
There are several options of where the Penguins can go from here, but if they follow the organization philosophy they've maintained since acquiring Marian Hossa for a Cup run in 2008, the only certainty is that Pittsburgh, with its newfound cap space and ailing lineup, is unlikely to stand pat.