With 12 days remaining until the NHL trade deadline on February 28, playoff contenders are starting to make their move. Let's assess what happened in the past week:
February 10 - Nashville acquires Mike Fisher from Ottawa for a 2011 1st round pick and a conditional 2nd or 3rd round pick in 2012.
February 14 - Philly acquires Kris Versteeg from Toronto for 1st and 3rd round picks in 2011.
February 15 - Boston acquires Chris Kelly from Ottawa for a 2nd round pick in 2011.
What does this tell us? Two things: 1) The market is set for forwards who are not going to be unrestricted free agents after this season. Fisher, Versteeg, and Kelly all have at least an additional year remaining on their current deals; and 2) even if Sidney Crosby's status changes for the better by the deadline, the Penguins probably won't be trading for one of them. With Crosby leading the charge into the playoffs, the Penguins are still a Stanley Cup contender if they can rebuild their second line around a legitimate offensive threat who plays with an edgy, team-oriented style. Maybe somebody like Mike Fisher, if Mike Fisher was a legitimate offensive threat. He's not. Put it this way: Tyler Kennedy may overtake Mike Fisher in goal scoring by the trade deadline. What do you think Edmonton will demand for Ales Hemsky at this point? A number one pick and Simon Despres for a floater with the same amount of goals as Matt Cooke? Pass.
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Ray Shero has to be thinking there's really only one way this can play out. First, he tries to add a couple of relatively low-cost rentals, moves that won't harm the team in the long run regardless of whether Sid comes back. Best case scenario would be a haul like Eric Cole (if the Canes become sellers) and Ottawa's Chris Phillips (both UFAs after the season, with a combined cap hit of $6.4 million) for second-tier prospects, maybe a second rounder, and/or a Kennedy. That probably can't happen; the bidding as we approach the deadline will likely escalate to a ridiculous level given how many teams are on the bubble right now. So Shero will look for scraps. Ottawa can probably only ask for a 4th rounder for Alexei Kovalev, at best. I know he really doesn't fit anymore. I know he's old. But I think we might be willing to scratch Tim Wallace to get him in the lineup. Whatever happens between now and February 28, here's the reality: for the first time since he took over as Penguins GM five years ago, I wouldn't bat an eyelash if Ray Shero sits this one out.