It was a busy day around the NHL, especially in Pittsburgh.
Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick made several roster moves. Mark Recchi, Ric Jackman and Cory Cross were dealt away, while Petr Taticek, Krystofer Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren and Andy Hilbert joined the organization. In addition, Patrick acquired a second- and fourth-round picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
“Right now, we feel we had a real good nucleus of young guys and now we’ve added to it,” Patrick said. “We’re thrilled about that.”
The Penguins got a lot younger, too. Recchi and Cross are both 38, while Jackman is 27. Of the new acquisitions, Nordgren (26) is the oldest. Hilbert (25), Kolanos (24) and Taticek (22) come to an organization that has an impressive collection of young talent.
“Obviously, the nucleus of our team is a lot younger and we’re trying to build around Sidney [Crosby], [Evgeni] Malkin, [Marc-Andre] Fleury, [Ryan] Whitney and [Noah] Welch and those people who we will be going forward with and tried to put a good quality team together that can be successful,” Patrick said. “The thing that I am excited about is that we added to our group of young people that we’re going to need to build around for the near future and also the long future.”
Giving up Recchi wasn’t easy, though. In his second stint with the team this year, the feisty winger appeared in 63 games this season with the Penguins, recording 57 points (24+33).
“Moving a guy like Mark Recchi is a hard thing to do,” Patrick said. “He’s been great in his second stint with us. He was great in his first stint with us.”
In addition, Recchi provided valuable leadership to a young Penguins squad.
“There was a lot of interest in Recchi. There were a lot of teams; the list was extensive. We considered not trading him right up to the last second,” Patrick said. “He’s been really good for our young guys. He’s been tremendous this year, not only on the ice – that’s evident by what his numbers are – but in the locker room and on the road with the guys. He’s been a good mentor, especially for Sidney. It was great to have him here and we wish him well. Now I know who I am rooting for to win the Stanley Cup.”
In the deal, the Penguins acquired forwards Kolanos and Nordgren as well as the 2007 second-round pick.
“We’re very happy. A big part of it is a second-round pick in 2007,” Patrick said. “We feel that is going to be a good draft. We picked up two picks in the 2007 draft for that specific reason.”
Nordgren had recorded six points (4+2) and 30 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Hurricanes.
“Nordgren is here in his first year from Sweden. He had good numbers in Sweden and really hasn’t had a great opportunity to play in Carolina,” Patrick said. “He’s been behind some guys who were probably better than he is, but we want to give him a good look here to see what he can do because he has good speed and good skill. He is the oldest of the group that we brought in. We’re hoping he can show us something for the rest of this year, so we can look for him in the future to help us.”
Kolanos has three points in 15 games this season with Edmonton and Phoenix. In 22 games in the American Hockey League with San Antonio and Lowell, Kolanos recorded 22 points (10+12) and 40 penalty minutes. He will report to the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“We don’t have a right-handed centerman. Krystofer has good size with very, very good skills. He is a right-handed centerman,” Patrick said. “We were looking for something like that and we’re going to take him into Wilkes-Barre and we know they are going to play a lot longer than we are this year. So, we’ll get a real good look at him there.”
The Penguins claimed Hilbert off waivers from Chicago. The forward has appeared in 28 games this season with Chicago, recording nine points (5+4) and 22 penalty minutes.
“He’s a young guy that’s run some good numbers in the past. We watched him play a bunch over the years,” Patrick said. “We liked what he can do. He can play center; he can play wing; he can play point on the power play. He is a young guy who we feel, along with a lot of the other young guys we got [Thursday], hopefully fit in with us and with the young guys we’ve got going forward.”
Taticek was acquired from Florida for Jackman. Taticek, a center, played in three games with the Panthers, but had 30 points (9+21) in 44 games with Houston in the AHL. He will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as well.
“He was the ninth-overall pick in 2002. He’s only a 22-year-old. He has good size and good skill and sees the ice really well,” Patrick said. “Hopefully, he blossoms into a tremendous player. Time will tell. He has lots of talent. He has played a few games in the NHL. We’re anxious to see him in our lineup in Wilkes-Barre with the guys we have there, plus Kolanos. We’re looking forward to seeing them.”
Cross was sent to Detroit for a 2007 fourth-round pick. In addition, Shane Endicott was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a two-week conditioning assignment, which leaves the Penguins short-handed.
“Right now, we’re down to a bare-bones operation, in terms of players. After this weekend, once we get Brooks Orpik back, we’ll be down to 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies,” Patrick said. “Anytime you get in that situation, you can bring someone up in an emergency and it doesn’t affect what’s going on [in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton]; they can go back and play in the playoffs. That’s important for us because we want to see these guys as much as we can this spring and make some decisions on them for the future and for our lineup in the future.”