Starkey: Shero’s trades defy belief
By Joe Starkey
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013
At some point late in the Penguins' thrilling victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, it struck me: Ray Shero is the best trader in the NHL.
What's more, he is the best trader in Penguins history — better than Craig Patrick.
Even before Brandon Sutter's dramatic game-winner, a quick glance at the Penguins' lineup was enough to blow your mind. In a league where teams are desperate for goals, Shero has reeled in James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Sutter. The four have combined for 54 goals this season.
The miracle isn't that Shero gets the guy he wants but that he always seems to get a little something extra. Neal for Alex Goligoski would have been a wonderful trade. Shero somehow got Matt Niskanen, too.
How did that happen?
Merely acquiring Marian Hossa from Atlanta in 2008 would have been impressive even for a package that included a former first-round pick and a fresh one and even though Hossa only stayed for a cup of cappuccino. His arrival helped to transform the Penguins' mindset — signaling it was time to win now — and nearly helped them win it all. Lost in the mayhem was that Shero secured a throw-in named Pascal Dupuis, who ironically has become “Sid's winger,” or at least one of them, and that was the role Hossa was supposed to play.
How did that happen?
Some of this is luck, of course. And nobody should compare Dupuis to the magnificent Hossa, but it's worth noting that since the beginning of last season, Hossa's 40 goals barely eclipse Dupuis' 36.
Kunitz for Ryan Whitney, straight up, would have been another emphatic win for Shero given what has transpired since. But a prospect named Eric Tangradi was sprinkled in, and although Tangradi did not pan out, it was worth a try. He was parlayed into a draft pick.
Shero's coup de grace was the Sutter deal because he basically made it with a gun to his head.
Jordan Staal had one skate out the door last summer. The Penguins stood to lose him as an unrestricted free agent after this season. Carolina was the most realistic trading partner.
It wasn't exactly a high-leverage situation for Shero, who nevertheless held his ground. He made it known he would not budge unless Sutter was included in the deal. Staal for Sutter straight up would have been understandable, if disappointing, from the Penguins' perspective.
Naturally, Shero not only got Sutter but also the eighth pick in the draft (used on elite prospect Derrick Pouliot) and another promising defense prospect in Brian Dumoulin.
How did THAT happen?
The verdict on the Staal deal, of course, won't be known for some time. Referendums will recur every spring in the playoffs. So far, though, Sutter's eight goals and 13 points look pretty good next to Staal's six and 18 — especially considering how big at least four of Sutter's goals have been.
I haven't even mentioned some lesser deals such as Gary Roberts for Noah Welch, Bill Guerin for a conditional pick and Hal Gill for picks.
Shero hasn't been perfect at the trading table, mind you. No GM is. Nils Ekman, Jordan Leopold and Alexei Ponikarovsky were all quite forgettable. Daniel Carcillo for Georges Laraque (who, once he arrived, suddenly decided he'd try to play hockey rather than fight) didn't work out as hoped.
But what did the Penguins really lose? Pretty much nothing — though I'm sure somebody's still panicking over the loss of Luca Caputi, who got off to a wonderful start with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL this season and now plays in the AHL.
What separates Shero from Patrick, to this point, is that he has avoided the epic disaster — the Markus Naslund-for-Alek Stojanov or Glen Murray-for-Eddie Olczyk type deal.
Don't get me wrong. Patrick made some legendary, Cup-winning trades in 1991 and '92. Those will stand forever. But I'll take Shero at this point. And, don't look now, but the Penguins organization is flush with young, swift, offensive-minded defensemen, the kind every team craves.
It's only a matter of time before Trader Ray pulls the trigger again.
- Steelers quarterback Roethlisberger likes the revamped offense
- Steelers’ Polamalu trim, fit as he arrives for OTAs
- Penguins Insider: Time is right for Jokinen’s return
- Kovacevic: Pens improve under microscope
- FBI: Man fatally shot in Boston bombing probe
- Neal’s solid play soon could pay off on scoresheet for Penguins
- Steelers notebook: Less talk, more work is Tomlin’s theme
- Pirates notebook: Penguins jerseys in fashion for road trip
- Peduto secures Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh mayor
- Penguins notebook: Morrow leaves practice with injury
- Bilik DeFazio leads race for Westmoreland County judge on both ballots
You must be signed in to add comments
To comment, click the Sign in or sign up at the very top of this page.
I don't disagree at all...but there are a few addenda that are probably worth noting. 1. The Staal trade was actually better when you consider what was involved on the outside. TSN, among others, had reported well in advance of the trade that the reason Staal was wavering and then refused to sign his extension was that he wanted to play with his brother before his career ended, and that the 6 year extension the Pens were offering made that less likely. At that point, Carolina really was the ONLY potential trading partner, because anyone else would have realized that they were trading for a guy who wanted to be a Hurricane sooner, rather than later. That Shero got Sutter, the pick, and Dumoulin against that backdrop is a tribute to both his acumen and the honorability (or, perhaps, impatience) of Carolina's GM, Jim Rutherford, who would have gotten his player this summer, at the latest, no matter what. 2. Shero does have one major advantage over Craig Patrick in at least one sense: when money became an issue for the Pens, it radically altered their strategy for teambuilding and fundamentally changed their ability to trade for equal value. Naslund for Stojanov - while horrifying, no matter how you look at it - may have been a little easier to stomach if it wasn't followed by Kovalev for nobody, Jagr for nobody, etc. 3. Your comparison of Hossa to Dupuis is correct, as far as it goes...but don't forget that Dupuis gives you a very good penalty killer in addition, and he costs a fraction of what Hossa does. While Dupuis is nontrivially underpaid at this point, he's still almost certainly going to make less than Hossa under his next contract, and for my money, he's at least as important to the team as a player like Hossa would theoretically be.