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Penguins spend unusual low-key deadline day

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero did not make his customary marquee trade leading to the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, but he landed two forwards who could bolster their top nine.

The Penguins acquired forward Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in 2015, and forward Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick in 2014.

The moves seem modest compared to Pittsburgh's rumored interest in Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler, but they address holes in the lineup created by injuries to Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett.

"We had inquired with them [Vancouver], but at the end of the day, I don't think there was a deal there to be made," Shero said. "I think our goal going into this deadline, a lot of the focus media-wise, was on Ryan Kesler, not only in Pittsburgh, but in other media markets.

"He's a real good player, but I think our goal was to increase our depth up front and help our forward group, and with our second deal [for Stempniak], along with Goc, I think we've accomplished that."

The Penguins often have traded for notable players around the deadline, including Marian Hossa in 2008, Bill Guerin in 2009, and Jarome Iginla in 2013. But despite Shero's track record, he said he is not focused on making the most noteworthy deal each year, but making trades that benefit the team.

"I think every deadline is different," Shero said. "With the injuries that we have, with [Paul] Martin and [Kris] Letang and [Tomas] Vokoun and Beau Bennett, if those guys are all healthy, and Dupuis, we're probably not doing anything because we're a cap team and the cap went down $6 million. But it was important for us, with these injuries, to try to improve ourselves up front.

"Last year was just a different year in terms of the increased cap and the types of players we did pick up. But what we did today is hopefully going to give us the opportunity to help out some of the players with our group and give the coaching staff some options up front, which I think makes us a better hockey team."

Pittsburgh's top two lines have been relied upon heavily during the second half of the season, and Goc and Stempniak, who have scored more points this season (23 points each) than any of the Penguins' bottom-six forwards, could provide depth. Third-line center Brandon Sutter leads the bottom six with 21 points, followed by Joe Vitale's 13.

Stempniak, who has played the past three seasons with Calgary, said he enjoyed his time with the Flames but "it's onto the next challenge."

"When you look at the teams in the League, that's a team that ranks right up there," Stempniak said of the Penguins. "They've got some unbelievable players and they're having a great season. From my end, just looking to go in there and try to help out anyway I can, wherever they want to play me and however I can help. I'm really looking forward to it. The team is poised for a good playoff run. You can't help but be excited to join that."

Shero said he will allow Pittsburgh's coaches to determine where the new forwards should play for the first-place team in the Eastern Conference.

"The good thing about these players is they're very versatile guys," Shero said. "They can play different positions, both the penalty kill and the power play. They can help our penalty kill, they can help our second power-play unit.

"I think what's important to us is the depth at our forward position. Where they're going to play remains to be seen."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who said Goc and Stempniak could debut against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, expects them to fill several positions throughout Pittsburgh's top nine.

"Two things that both players add are flexibility and options," Bylsma said. "I don't think this is a 'Stempniak's going here and Goc is going to play here' and that's the way it's going to be. Goc is great in the [faceoff] circle, but he's also a good, responsible forward, can play on the wing as well."

Their additions, along with the potential return of Bennett, who is expected to recover from a wrist/hand injury by the end of March, could reinvigorate Sutter, who was a rumored piece in a potential Kesler trade. Sutter has scored six points in his past 24 games and acknowledged his surprise at possibly being traded midway through his second season in Pittsburgh.

"It's definitely a relief. I'm just glad it's done with," Sutter said. "It's a tough couple days when you're not sure what's going to happen or when it's going to happen. I'm definitely glad it came and went without anything going on. Obviously it's nice to have it done now and I can just worry about playing again."

Pittsburgh was able to add to its lineup without surrendering Sutter or any other player, which captain Sidney Crosby said he thinks was the plan of Penguins management.

"You never know what's going to happen. Anybody can get traded," Crosby said. "There were some guys who were named in the media who were possibly going. I know it was a little unsettling for those guys. I think it was a big relief for those guys. I think for everybody because we really do have a great group of guys that gets along really well.

"Whenever you can make your team better without losing someone from the actual team it is a huge bonus. I think that's something that management was probably conscious of."

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