Pens trade for Roberts, Laraque
Hours before Penguins general manager Ray Shero completed his first trade deadline deal on Tuesday, there were already some new additions in the Penguins' locker room.
On one wall of the dressing room hung a big picture of the Stanley Cup that wasn't there on Monday, while pictures of the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup-winning teams appeared on a wall in the players' lounge.
By 3 p.m. yesterday, Shero had made several trades that he hopes will help the 2007 Penguins add their picture to the wall alongside the championship teams from the 1990s.
Chief among them were the acquisitions of 40-year-old left wing Gary Roberts, a veteran of 1,137 NHL regular-season games and 114 playoff games, from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defensive prospect Noah Welch, and tough winger Georges Laraque from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for prospect Daniel Carcillo and a third-round draft pick in 2007.
"I'm happy where we are; I believe in the group that we have and I said last week that if we didn't do anything at the deadline, this is the group that got us here and I'd be happy with that," Shero said. "But to make the couple moves we made is a real good thing for our team."
Both Roberts and Laraque, 30, waived no-trade clauses to join the Penguins. Roberts will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Laraque is signed through 2007-08 counting $1.3 million against the salary cap.
Shero also traded center Dominic Moore, 26, to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a third-round pick in 2007, acquired defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, 29, from the Panthers in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2007; and received goaltender Nolan Schaefer from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2007.
All but Schaefer will report to the Penguins, as teams can now exceed the 23-man roster limit. None arrived in Pittsburgh in time to play against the New Jersey Devils last night.
Initially, Roberts expressed a desire to go only to either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Ottawa Senators in order to be close to his teenage daughter, who's in school in Toronto.
But Shero asked Panthers general manager Jacques Martin for the opportunity to speak to Roberts anyway and had a long conversation with Roberts and his wife on Monday. That, plus phone calls from Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi, got Roberts interested.
"I know there was a lot of speculation out there about where I wanted to be, but this is really where I'm excited to be," said Roberts, who takes the title as the Penguins' oldest player from Recchi, 39.
Shero said they targeted Roberts early on.
"Gary's a veteran player, a left winger that you look for this time of year," Shero said. "He's got real good size, plays a gritty game, his goals come from in front of the net, he's got good hands, he just plays the game the way it's meant to be played at this time of year."
Roberts, who won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989, played most of this season with the Panthers on the top line with Olli Jokinen. But coach Michel Therrien declined to say where he might put Roberts with the Penguins.
"We're going to sit down with the players and try to find the right combination," Therrien said. "There are different options. We'll take our time and make sure we're going to make the right decision with the combinations of our lines."
Shero said that Laraque's physical presence will help not just players such as Sidney Crosby, who's been the target of some cheap shots lately, but everyone on the team "feel comfortable that they're taken care of."
"I'm really proud of the group we have," Shero said. "They've done a great job with team toughness and defending themselves and stepping up for each other. But I think you ask anybody, (Laraque) is the toughest guy in the league and he'll bring some instant credibility to our team on the ice."
By trading Welch and Carcillo, who were both playing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, Shero nearly kept intact the team that went 14-0-2 between Jan. 13 and Feb. 18. Moore was the only player traded who'd been with the team all season.
Moore was one of Shero's first acquisitions as general manager of the Penguins, and he was averaging 13 minutes of ice time as the Penguins' third-line center. He killed penalties and was the only centerman with a faceoff win percentage greater than 50 percent, at 51.62.
"(Moore's faceoff percentage) was in the back of my mind, but I had a conversation with Dominic last week about his role and his ice time was diminishing, and I don't know if he would have been a guy who would have been a factor down the stretch for us," Shero said. "I think he really helped us in the time he was here, though."