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Injuries could handcuff Penguins' Shero at trade deadline

Getty Images - The Penguins' Pascal Dupuis is helped off the ice by teammates Matt Niskanen (left) and Chris Kunitz after injuring his knee against the Senators on Dec. 23, 2013, in Ottawa, Ontario. Dupuis suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Pascal Dupuis is helped off the ice by teammates Matt Niskanen (left) and Chris Kunitz after injuring his knee against the Senators on Dec. 23, 2013, in Ottawa, Ontario. Dupuis suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins general manager Ray Shero speaks to the media after practice Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, at Consol Energy Center. Shero said he is expecting little movement at the March 5 trading deadline, as so many teams are in contention, so fewer players from non-contenders will be available.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins general manager Ray Shero speaks to the media after practice Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, at Consol Energy Center. Shero said he is expecting little movement at the March 5 trading deadline, as so many teams are in contention, so fewer players from non-contenders will be available.

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Injured player Projected return

Kris Letang Unknown

Tomas Vokoun Unknown

Paul Martin 4-6 weeks

Beau Bennett 3-4 weeks

Pascal Dupuis 6-8 months

Chris Conner 1 week

Taylor Pyatt Thursday

Joe Vitale Thursday

By Josh Yohe
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 1:12 p.m.
 

Ray Shero is in a bad spot.

The Penguins general manager announced Tuesday that injuries bombarding his team are worse than expected, that the team's salary-cap inflexibility will make swinging a deal before the March 5 trade deadline difficult and that few teams are interested in dealing desired veterans because of the logjam in the standings.

With the Olympics in the rearview mirror for the man who served as Team USA's assistant general manager, augmenting a talented but incomplete Penguins roster appears to be a difficult task.

Shero said he doesn't intend on adding to a defense core that has been decimated by the losses of Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (broken hand).

“With Paulie and Kris out, it goes back to where we were before,” Shero said. “We'll give these young guys opportunities. We'll see what happens over the next week or so. Hopefully there won't be any more injuries. Adding a defenseman for any team is going to be difficult.”

The injury report provided by Shero and coach Dan Bylsma was grim:

• Right wing Pascal Dupuis' knee injury wasn't just to his ACL but also to his MCL. He was forced to strengthen other portions of his knee before finally having surgery seven weeks following his injury. Dupuis will miss six to eight months, making his availability at the beginning of next season uncertain.

• Right wing Beau Bennett, dealing with a broken wrist, suffered a setback that will keep him out of the lineup for at least three to four more weeks. Bylsma called the setback “more of a bump in the road than a wall,” but Bennett figures to see little game action before the postseason.

• The Penguins remain unsure whether Letang will play again this season.

• Martin will miss at least four weeks with a broken hand and could miss closer to six weeks.

• Neither Bylsma nor Shero confirmed that goalie Tomas Vokoun, out since September with a blood clot, will play this season.

Letang's immediate future should play a role in how aggressive Shero is at the trade deadline. The general manager said he would leave room for Letang to play, should he be medically cleared to return before the playoffs. Shero would have more salary-cap flexibility to make a move if the team moved Letang to the long-term injured reserve list, which would free $3.5 million of prorated salary.

Shero said the team will attempt to make “an educated guess” regarding Letang's status, then act accordingly at the trade deadline.

Unlike last season, when he orchestrated a number of trades, Shero is predicting a quieter trade deadline day.

Only four teams — Calgary, Edmonton, Buffalo and Florida — are more than 10 points out of a playoff spot, which means few players are being sold off.

“We'll have a good idea come March 5,” Shero said. “In terms of attaining a top winger, I think that's a bit far-fetched.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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