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Hamhuis trade was a shrewd move for Penguins

Three defensemen who defined general manager Ray Shero's offseason will probably be on the ice at the same time tonight when the Penguins play the Vancouver Canucks at Consol Energy Center.

One of them, Dan Hamhuis of the Canucks, represents the shrewdest trade of his tenure.

The few days Hamhuis belonged to the Penguins this past summer set the course for Shero's big-splash July 1, when he paid $45 million to defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek on separate five-year deals.

Each player has struggled of late, notably in overtime Monday night in the Penguins' home loss to the New York Rangers, but their track records suggest the investment will pay well for the Penguins, who were in need of reshaping their defense corps.

That probably wasn't possible without trading for Hamhuis, who had previously been traded from Nashville to Philadelphia before the Flyers, convinced he would test free agency, shipped him to the Penguins at the NHL Draft for a 2011 third-round pick.

"It wasn't fun being moved a couple of time before free agency," Hamhuis said Tuesday. "There certainly was a lot of pressure to sign in some places, but we wanted to go to free agency to hear from all 30 teams."

That was all Shero needed to hear, but he needed to hear that for himself and didn't waste one minute of free-agent time waiting.

Holding Hamhuis' rights afforded the Penguins an exclusive negotiating window with two of four impending free-agent defensemen they had pegged as ideal fits — Hamhuis, Martin, Michalek and Sergei Gonchar.

This was a huge advantage for the Penguins when the free-agent period opened at noon July 1. They never thought re-signing Gonchar was possible. They had assessed Hamhuis wanted to test the market.

With that knowledge, they were able to move firmly in the direction of Michalek and Martin, and they had each signed by 3 p.m. Gonchar had signed just after noon, but Hamhuis' deal with Vancouver wasn't finalized until late afternoon.

Shero was already addressing the local media by then, chatting about his defensive corps "upgrade."

Michalek and Martin haven't played up to their reputations, but that shouldn't change the opinion of the Hamhuis acquisition.

Many experts opined that he "won July 1." Actually, he won it a few days earlier by trading for Hamhuis.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Penguins are 12 for 92 on the power play, "good" for a 23rd-ranked 13 percent as of Tuesday. They play their 20th game tonight. Their power play through 20 games each of the last four seasons, all playoff campaigns, and their finishes:

2006-07

PP/record first 20 games: 21 for 122 (17.2 percent)/10-7-3

PP/record final 62 games: 73 for 341 (21.4 percent)/37-17-8

2007-08

PP/record first 20 games: 21 for 100 (21 percent)/8-10-2

PP/record final 62 games: 56 for 278 (20.1 percent)/39-17-6

2008-09

PP/record first 20 games: 17 for 93 (18.3 percent)/12-5-3

PP/record final 62 games: 45 for 267 (16.9 percent)/33-23-6

2009-10

PP/record first 20 games: 11 for 83 (13.3 percent)/13-7-0

PP/record final 62 games: 45 for 283 (15.9 percent)/34-21-7

Sources: ESPN.com , NHL.com

EYE ON THE ENEMY

An NHL Insider offers insight on the Penguins' opponents for the week ahead:

Canucks (Home, 7 p.m. today): "They have a deep group overall, but their defensemen can have trouble with puck decisions under pressure."

Hurricanes (Home, 7 p.m. Friday): "As a team they can be explosive. Some of their defensemen — Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, etc. — are risk takers and will take chances up in the play."

Panthers (Away, 7:30 p.m., Monday): "This team has offensive-minded forwards that have the ability to score with team speed. Puck management between blue lines is important, because you don't want to give this forwards-group any extra offensive chances."

THE WORD

Penguins share their thoughts on responsibility:

Max Talbot: "It's the way you act and lead and do everything in life. You can get more responsible as you get older by being more mature, and you obviously have more responsibility as an older player if you, in turn, put that maturity into your hockey game. You'll lead a little more and there is more that comes on you, and it's a good thing."

Marc-Andre Fleury: "For me, it's what I have to do to help the team win. The big part of my responsibility it to stop the puck. I'm older now, so maybe I need to try to do a little bit more other than that — but the bottom line is my responsibility is to stop the puck. If everybody does their responsibility, we'll be successful."

Paul Martin: "It's being accountable for your role, what you should be doing, how the system should be played. Being responsible is making the right decisions, doing the right things ... realizing what your potential is and trying to maintain a level of consistency people expect from you night in and night out."

ONES TO WATCH

Daniel Sedin, Canucks left wing: The ability he shares with twin-brother Henrik to find one another in the offensive zone is something special, and Vancouver's production is largely based on their success.

Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes center: He continues to produce offensively as a rookie. He is a very slippery and intelligent player disguised in a smaller frame.

Jason Garrison, Panthers defenseman: Hockey IQ stands out with this solid young defenseman. He also has a great compete-level to go with imposing size.

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