In his tenure as Penguins general manager, Ray Shero has garnered a reputation for being aggressive at the NHL’s trade deadline. So it wasn’t a surprise to see rumors linking Pittsburgh to Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, one of the biggest names on the market.
But while the buzz surrounding Kesler and the Penguins built to a frenzy over the last few days, Shero and his staff were working quietly to execute their top priority: bolstering their forward depth.
And Shero feels they succeeded, as the Penguins acquired quality veteran forwards Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak without surrendering any of their current rostered players before the 3 p.m. deadline hit.
“We had inquired with (Vancouver). At the end of the day, obviously he was not traded and I don’t think there was a deal there to be made,” Shero said of Kesler. “Going into this deadline, a lot of the focus media-wise was on Ryan Kesler, not only in Pittsburgh but around other media markets. He’s a real good player.
“But I think our goal was to try to increase our depth up front and help our forward group, which I think we’ve accomplished (without trading) anybody off our roster. So that was our main goal. And I think with the (Pascal) Dupuis injury, with the Beau Bennett injury, it was important for us to try to do that. So hopefully it makes us a better, deeper team.”
In fact, if it weren’t for such significant injuries to Dupuis, Bennett, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Tomas Vokoun, Shero may have stood pat at the trade deadline. But with top-six wingers Dupuis and Bennett sidelined and Martin set to return to the blue line around the start of the postseason, Shero decided his most urgent need was up top heading into the stretch run. And with those players all on either long-term injured reserve or injured reserve, he had the cap space to do something about it.
“If those guys were all healthy, we’re probably not doing anything because we’re a cap team and the cap went down 6 million dollars,” Shero explained. “But it was important to us, with these injuries, that we try to improve ourselves up front. … I think what we did today is hopefully going to give us that opportunity to help out some of the players with our group and help our coaching staff get some options up front, which I think makes us a better hockey team.”
Primarily, the third line and its lack of identity – center Brandon Sutter has been playing with a rotating cast of wingers all season – was something Shero singled out as one of the biggest needs for his team, and something that needed to be addressed.
“We picked up one, maybe two players today because of that,” Shero said. “I think it’s an area we needed to improve. That’s what, as a group, we set out to do at this deadline, was outside of any big splash or big name, try to improve our depth and that third line or (acquire) guys who can play in your top nine and move around. I think we’ve accomplished that and I think we needed to improve upon that, for sure.”
Shero declined to say where he would play Goc and Stempniak, saying that decision will be up to the coaches. But he said with their versatility, they have the ability to plug into a lot of different spots throughout the lineup, giving the staff the luxury of options. And Shero is looking forward to seeing how the newest Penguins fit in.
“The good thing on these players is they’re very versatile guys, can play different positions,” he said. “Both can help our penalty kill and second power-play unit. So I think what’s important to us is the depth at our forward position. They’re players that have been in the league, played well in the league, and that’s what we’re looking for, to try to add to that. Where they’re going to play remains to be seen. There’s 20-plus games left in the regular season and I’m sure they’ll get an opportunity around the lineup and kind of see where the best fit is.”