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Ray Shero Trade Deadline Press Conference Transcript

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero addressed the local media on Wednesday afternoon following the 3 p.m. trade deadline. Following is a transcript of what Shero had to say:

On his thoughts on the two trades:
I think the deal with Jordan Leopold is really going to solidify our back end. The deal with (Alexei) Ponikarovsky is he is a top-six forward for us. He is a guy we looked at closely. Our scouts identified. He is a long-time Maple Leaf who is still just 29-years-old. He is going to be a 20-goal guy again. He has a big body. He is going to play on our top two lines. Like I said, going into the deadline here I liked our team but if there was a chance to upgrade or improve we would try to do that. We thought the Leopold thing, getting another defenseman would, and it does. Certainly looking around up front at some of the other forwards we thought Ponikarovsky was a guy who could fit into a top-six role for us. That is what he has been in his career. I think we have made ourselves better. We have traded Martin Skoula who was a serviceable guy here for us. He has subsequently been moved on to New Jersey. Toronto traded him today. Of course we traded Luca Caputi who our amateur scouts drafted in the fourth round. He looks like a good prospect so that looks like a good move for Toronto and hopefully a good move for us as well with Ponikarovsky.

On what Ponikarovsky brings:

He has size and he has a scoring touch. He is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. He is very good down low in the offensive zone. He likes to go to the net. I think the way Sid (Sidney Crosby) and Geno (Evgeni Malkin) like to play, they have good speed and they like to drive guys, he likes to go to the net too. He should be a good complementary player for us. He is hungry to get back into the playoffs. As I said, we identified him and felt with the group of forwards we have that he would be a good addition for us.

On what made this trade go through:
We looked at our forward group with Eric Godard being out and we only had 12 forwards. If it wasn’t a top-six forward like Ponikarovsky, then we were also looking or a bottom-six guy that could maybe be a role player for us and just add some depth to our lineup. Once we had traded our (2010) second-round pick for Leopold, which as I had said the other day we felt our first priority was a defenseman, I thought that would take us out of the Ponikarovsky situation. I touched base with Toronto to see if we were out and they said we will get back to you. They called yesterday and I had given them a list of prospects I didn’t want to trade and Luca was on it. (Toronto assistant GM) Dave Nonis came back and said if you throw in Luca Caputi then we will seriously consider the offer. That is when I really talked to our staff and our coaches. Luca is a guy our amateur scouts drafted and he was doing a good job for us in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. We felt like with the team we have right now, to add a guy like Ponikarovsky gives us a better chance. We had to weight the risk and hopefully the reward. We felt that was the thing we should do.

On teams who have won Cups needing guys who have to play for contracts or are chasing Cups:
I am not sure if guys who have not won are necessary. We had guys we picked up last year like (Chris) Kunitz and (Bill) Guerin who had won Stanley Cups and they were hungry. Certainly we had a lot of guys, including myself, who won their first Stanley Cup last year. I think what we have here is the environment to be successful. The environment I talk about starts with ownership. I have said this way back to the (Marian) Hossa deal when we did that, you can’t do these things without the support of your ownership. Mario (Lemieux) and Ron (Burkle) are fantastic. They are about winning here in Pittsburgh. They are about a great environment. With their support we are able to do these things. I think we have a real good group of players and people. Guys come in and they get pushed. Hopefully it brings out the best in the new players that we have and that leads to more success.

On Ponikarovsky sometimes being streaky:
No. Let’s be honest, every player has some holes in their game. With Ponikarovsky, we have 19 games left here in the regular season. I’m not sure if he’ll be available for our game (Thursday) in New York but he should be ready for the weekend. We have a short window here – a quarter of the season. Hopefully the playoffs can go well. That is going to be his main focus to get into this environment. It brings out the best in some players. We hope it is going to do the same to Ponikarovsky.

On deadline deals sending a message to the team:
I get asked that once in a while and I think that is a better question to ask the players. I am not trying to send a message. What I am trying to do, and what my job is to do, is to try to give the team and the coaches the best possible chance to be successful. Every year we try to do that. I say this every year too, but at the trade deadline next year we might not do anything. It really depends on the situation and what the prices are. We just felt comfortable with what we gave up and what we got back in Leopold and Ponikarovsky. In terms of sending a message, I am just trying to put the best team on the ice that has a chance to win. It gives us every chance we have with the experience we have the skill we have and the coaching. That is my job.

On minor trades being the trend:
We won a Stanley Cup last year and we picked Craig Adams up on waivers. He was a valuable player for us. Everybody is looking for little components to round out their team depth. To get to the playoffs and to go through the playoffs you need depth and you need experienced guys. From a management standpoint, you always need expiring contracts, which is helpful. Every team is looking for that, especially with the number of defensemen you see moved. It’s a lot of depth guys or fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth defensemen who get traded now. Teams just need that depth and want the security of having veteran guys or more players at their disposal. I think that’s what most teams want to do that want to make a run.

On the healthy competition internally following the trades:
I think internal competition is good. Right now we are healthy and have one extra forward and one extra defenseman. Whoever is going to be out on a given night, provided we are healthy and with Eric presumably being out as our 14th forward, while I saw we have internal competition, we are a 23-man group moving forward. It’s not about who is in the lineup and who is out. We have a team here that on and off the ice is going to win and lose together and stick together. That is what it is about. It is not who is in and who is out. Last year we went through the playoffs with eight defensemen. We had guys like (Philippe) Boucher and (Alex) Goligoski. Boucher was a very experienced guy. He had basically been a top-four guy for most of his career. He was the seventh guy and he was the ultimate pro. Same thing with Darryl Sydor the year before. It is about the team and that is where we are. I like the way we are right now with the 23 guys. As I said this is our group moving forward. We are going to win and lose together.

On making moves to keep pace with conference rivals:
You think about what the competition could be doing but at the same time it really is about our team. That is the way we have always operated. When I meet with Dan our concern is about our team. When we make these moves we look at our hockey team and how we can best improve it. I certainly can’t do anything about what the competitors are going to do. I do like our team on the ice last week and today I probably like it a little bit better. That is our main concern.

On Ponikarovsky being a good two-way player:
I think he is a responsible two-way player, which is important of course. As I said, the way he plays the game he just brings a size that we like. He is not just a one-way player as you mentioned with the plus/minus. The plus/minus obviously is not the most indicative factor but he is responsible defensively which is important. We will see where Dan is going to play him. He will have a good role on our hockey team I would assume.

On Ponikarovsky playing as big as his size:
Ponikarovsky is a big body who is strong down low and strong on the puck. That to me is what we are looking for. Is he a guy like Craig Adams who is going to run over people? That is probably not his game. His game is more of a strength game and a go-to-the-net game which is important. Those are some of the valuable assets he is going to bring.

On what led to trading Caputi:

I think Luca is a really good kid. He is 21-year-old and he has made some really good progress. He is in the top-20 in scoring in the American Hockey League. I think Toronto is getting a really good prospect. They are going to give him a look the rest of the year in Toronto. I think it is going to be a great opportunity to play in his hometown. I hope he does well. First off, I hope Ponikarovsky does well. I hope Caputi does well because that will be a good reflection on our amateur staff. As I told Luca last night when I talked to him, getting traded for Ponikarovsky, a 20-goal scorer that was coveted by many teams, that is good for Caputi.

On looking at potential playoff matchups when deals are made:
I think it is a combination of both. I think when you are making deals you are looking at potential matchups. I am sure teams look at Pittsburgh and see three centers down the middle and think ‘How do you combat that?’ Three years ago we traded for Hal Gill because we had that in mind as to who he could match up against. You have those things in mind for sure. At the end of the day it is about your team and your group. Sometimes you can only tweak it at the end and get a role player but those role players are very important for teams to have success in the playoffs.

On the Penguins emphasizing speed as an organization:
You have to be able to skate. That is the way Dan’s system is. I think we met with our amateur and pro staff at the beginning of the year and we basically revised some of the philosophies of our drafting and our pro scouting in terms of here is how Dan needs to play, here is how the system is going to be and here is what we are looking for. Skating is not the end all but it is certainly a big part of what we have. Hockey sense certainly goes into that and competitive spirit does as well. It is a combination of things. If you can skate that is a good head start for you.

On the team’s young core making it easier to part with draft picks:

We parted with one, a second-round pick. We have all the rest of our draft picks and we have three sixth-round picks so we have eight picks in a seven-round draft. I think we are doing OK. Nobody likes trading draft picks. Sometimes you can get them back at the draft. Sometimes you trade back. There are certain times at the draft where you have a certain type of team and you can do that. A lot of second-round picks were traded over the past couple of days. We are one of the teams that did it. I am just happy as to where our assets are in terms of the draft in 2010. We still have some good prospects in our system which is good. More importantly today, we have a very good hockey team I believe.

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