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NHL Insider: Pens GM Shero not looking for a rental player

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

Everything is different this season for the Penguins, and that includes general manager Ray Shero.

No longer does he preside over a tight-knit group that had gone two years without winning a playoff series. As of Sunday, Shero has a team that is coming off a conference final appearance and leads the Eastern Conference despite an NHL-worst 234 man-games lost to injury.

He may make a move or two before the March 5 trade deadline.

“A lot can happen between now and then,” Shero said this past week. “But I like our team. I don't feel like we have to do something.”

He did not sound like somebody trying to hide anything.

He also does not sound like somebody looking to rent a player at the deadline.

There is a sense within the organization that any move made this season would be what Shero often calls “a hockey trade,” which would require the Penguins to give up somebody significant to get somebody of worth and under contract.

Shero has done this before, notably in 2009 (Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi) and 2011 (Alex Goligoski for James Neal and Matt Niskanen). Whitney and Goligoski were defensemen with whom Shero did not want to part, but Kunitz and Neal were each viewed by Shero as top-six wingers for a team that was built around franchise centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The Penguins still are built around Crosby and Malkin, and each player has a full no-trade clause on long-term new contracts.

Shero may see an opportunity over the next nine weeks to find a next new winger for one of them, but he is not actively seeking that player just because Pascal Dupuis — Crosby's regular right winger — is likely out for the season with a torn right ACL.

Dupuis already had been taken off Crosby's line in favor of Beau Bennett before Bennett was lost to wrist surgery in November. The Penguins favor giving Bennett a chance to stay on the top line upon his return, which is expected before the Penguins' last game before the Olympic break Feb. 7.

Shero will take all calls from fellow managers, and he will listen to any proposal that does not include dealing Crosby or Malkin.

That does not mean he is actively looking to trade, say, Olli Maatta.

Know, though, that Maatta is the one defensemen about whom Shero expects most willing trade partners to ask.

It would take the next Neal, who was 23 years old when Shero jumped on the Stars' troubled financial state to land a winger that would become a first-team All-Star within two years.

The Neal deal, understandably, has led to a lot of scuttlebutt recently about Winnipeg's Evander Kane, a 22-year-old winger two years removed from scoring 30 goals. He has four years left on a contract that counts $5.25 million annually against the salary cap.

The Jets reportedly would part with Kane.

Reports are not what Shero trusts this time of year.

He trusts actual conversations with fellow managers, and as of this week, he and Winnipeg's Kevin Cheveldayoff had not talked about Kane.

The Jets visit Consol Energy Center on Sunday, though — and as Shero is fond of saying, “a lot can happen between now” and the deadline.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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