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Penguins fail to land star center Kesler at NHL trade deadline

NHLI via Getty Images - The Penguins acquired forward Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>NHLI via Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins acquired forward Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
Getty Images - The Penguins acquired Lee Stempniak from the Flames at the trade deadline March 5, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins acquired Lee Stempniak from the Flames at the trade deadline March 5, 2014.

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Lee Stempniak

Age: 31

Position: Right wing

Size: 5-11, 196

Shoots: Right

Born: Buffalo, N.Y.

NHL experience: Nine seasons, 616 games

Statistics: Career: 146 goals, 184 assists, minus-41, 229 penalty minutes

Season: Eight goals, 15 assists, minus-21, 28 penalty minutes

Contract status: $2.5 million cap hit, unrestricted free agent in July

Scouting report: Stempniak has posted seasons of 27 (with St. Louis in 2006-07) and 28 (split between Toronto and Phoenix in 2009-10) goals, but he's had just 17 goals over the past two seasons (99 games). A versatile player who can play on both sides of the ice and both special teams, Stempniak was third on Calgary in average ice time among forwards (19:24).

Key stat: Two of Stempniak's three career shorthanded goals have come this season. The Penguins' entire team has combined for three short-handed goals this season.

Marcel Goc

Age: 30

Position: Forward

Size: 6-1, 197

Shoots: Left

Born: Calw, Germany

NHL experience: Nine seasons, 550 games

Statistics: Career: 72 goals, 105 assists, minus-18, 145 penalty minutes

Season: 11 goals, 12 assists, minus-7, 31 penalty minutes

Contract status: $1.7 million cap hit, unrestricted free agent in July

Scouting report: A former first-round pick of San Jose 13 years ago, Goc has developed into an effective defensive center with good faceoff skills. Goc possesses good speed and is equipped at playing in a defensive, shutdown-like role. He'd been on injured reserve four different times over the previous three seasons, having played in 150 of 212 games in that time. However, Goc has appeared in all 62 of Florida's games this season.

Key stat: Goc ranks 16th in the NHL in faceoffs taken (1,090), and his 52.8 percent win rate was by far the best on the Florida Panthers among those who qualified for the league leaders. He instantly becomes the Penguins' best faceoff man among qualifiers.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 2:03 p.m.

General manager Ray Shero called Ryan Kesler “a really good hockey player” on Wednesday.

Shero cannot call Kesler a Penguin, though.

The Penguins could not close a deal on Kesler, a coveted center who remained with the Vancouver Canucks past the expiration of the NHL trade deadline.

“We had inquired with them, but … I don't think there was a deal there to be made,” Shero said.

The Penguins and Canucks discussed parameters of a trade, but Shero never formalized an offer beyond informing Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis which assets were available.

Those assets were center Brandon Sutter, a first- and third-round pick, and the Canucks' choice of any defensive prospect in the system — except Derrick Pouliot, a first-round pick from the 2012 draft.

Members of the Penguins player development staff have lobbied Shero to make Pouliot untouchable because their opinion is he could make an Olli Maatta-like transition to the NHL at some point next season.

Maatta, also a first-round pick in 2012, has emerged as a top rookie this season at age 19.

Pouliot is 20.

“Derrick's a big part of our group going forward,” Shero said. “He's a special talent.

“The good thing about the trade deadline is you always know which of your players are good because those are the ones other teams ask for.”

Shero believed the Canucks needed Pouliot to be included in a package for Kesler, who has two years remaining on his contract that is salary-cap friendly at $5 million annually.

Despite being in contact with Gillis since last week, Shero started Wednesday unconvinced Vancouver ownership was willing to part with Kesler a day after trading franchise goalie Robert Luongo to Florida. Gillis told reporters in Vancouver that ownership was involved in his dealings regarding Kesler, though Gillis denied any rift with his bosses.

Landing Kesler would have been a “hockey trade,” Shero said. It would have been his biggest since sending center Jordan Staal to Carolina in exchange for Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the 2012 first-round pick that was used on Pouliot.

Sutter, dismayed to hear his fate might be tied to Kesler's future, went from uncertain of his place with the Penguins to being the center for whom Shero landed a couple of wingers.

The Penguins acquired Marcel Goc from Florida and Lee Stempniak from Calgary on Wednesday. The combined costs were third- and fifth-round picks at the 2014 draft and a third-round pick in '15.

Shero lauded both players' “versatility.” Goc also can play center, and Stempniak, a right-handed shot, could see time with captain Sidney Crosby and left winger Chris Kunitz on the top line.

Where they play will be left up to coach Dan Bylsma, Shero said. But upgrading the third line, which has featured Sutter and 16 different wingers, was a priority for the past several weeks.

“What's important to us is our depth at the forward position,” Shero said, noting the Penguins did not sacrifice a roster player for Goc and Stempniak, both of whom are in the final seasons of current contracts.

Shero said those acquisitions also will help with the Penguins' cap flexibility until the Stanley Cup playoffs, when teams can exceed the upper payroll limit.

Goc and Stempniak combine to count $4.2 million prorated against the cap, leaving the Penguins enough room under the $64.3 million cap to clear space for defenseman Paul Martin's potential return before the playoffs, Shero said.

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

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