[Click here for the case against trading Sidney Crosby]
The Penguins aren't trading Sidney Crosby. Let's get that out of the way up front. He's the face of the franchise and the league, the captain and savior of the team, the hero of a nation and an entire generation of Penguin fans, a Stanley Cup champion, and owner of the highest points-per-game scoring average in the NHL this season. Trade Sidney Crosby? That would take balls the size of Saskatchewan. And in a market with a home sellout streak of 250-some games, it would be very bad for business. People in Pittsburgh love Sidney Crosby. We love Sidney Crosby. He's part of the fabric of the city, and he elevates Pittsburgh to a higher place on the cultural relevance scale. Sidney Crosby's not going anywhere.
But is there a case to be made for doing what only a month ago was unthinkable? You bet there is. Imagine you're Ray Shero, and you're out for a morning jog. A limousine with tinted windows pulls up to the sidewalk. The back window recedes, smoothly, slowly, steadily. Like someone with 690 career goals has his finger on the button. And suddenly, there's 66, in all his splendor.
"Get in the car," he says.
You don't need to be told twice. And once inside, Mario and Ron Burkle explain to you that you have a new mandate: Blow up the Big Three center model before we get swallowed by big new Crosby and Staal contracts. Be bold. Even revolutionary. Leave business considerations out of it. Forget sentiment. No one is untouchable. NO ONE.
So, Ray. What do you do?
Making the case, plus some trade proposals after the jump...
If this is purely about the product you'll be putting on the ice for the next 5 years and nothing else, the answer is easier than you'd like it to be. You trade Sidney Crosby. Here's why.
1) He's the biggest risk
Down the stretch of the regular season, as Crosby started to get his timing back, we were treated to some breathtaking plays. The behind-the-back pass to Cooke against the Senators.
The game against the Devils when he abused Marek Zidlicky.
But where was the Sidney Crosby who rags the puck along the boards for shifts at a time? Where was the guy who is widely recognized as maybe the best grinder in the history of the sport? Where was this Sidney Crosby?
The truth is, he never really came back. The Crosby we saw this spring was much more of a perimeter player. When the puck hit his stick, it was typically whipped right off of it and onto the tape of a linemate. And if you didn't notice the one time every game that maybe some defenseman let up on Crosby when he could have really put a shoulder into him, well, you either weren't paying attention or you didn't want to see it.
There were still some flashes of the old tenacity around the net, like that first period goal in Game 1 against Philly. But where was Sid in Games 5 and 6? Where was his intensity? It was as if somehow he wasn't really present. No concussion symptoms, he said. But when the games got fiercer, when the hits got harder and more frequent, when his undeniable competitive spirit compelled him to seek out more contact, his body didn't respond well. And he wished out loud that he felt better.
Now, Sidney Crosby still managed 45 points in 28 games this season, and 8 points in 6 playoff games, so the guy is no slouch. But forget his name for a minute, and look at your options.
A 25-year-old, two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as league scoring champion, Calder Trophy winner for rookie of the year, and Conn Smythe Trophy for MVP of the 2009 playoffs, this Russian mega-talent is coming off a career season. Among the more versatile and unpredictable scoring threats in modern NHL history. Not afraid to seize the moment. At his best when he's the focal point of the offense and power play and, let's face it, when Player C is out of the lineup. Rangy and hard to contain at 6'3, 195 pounds. Frisky. Under contract for two more seasons at $8.7 million per year. Adored by his teammates and fans. No long-term injury concerns. Has adorable parents.
|Mr. and Mrs. Player A|
A 23-year-old horse who can play big minutes in any situation. At 6'4, 220 pounds, he is just starting to comprehend his own strength. Shrugs off defenders with ease. An imposing defensive presence since he broke into the league at 18, he is only now blossoming offensively, piling up 25 goals and 50 points in 62 regular season games this season. A consistent playoff warrior, he put the team on his back and scored 4 goals in two games when the Penguins faced elimination. His game is built on strength, not speed, so he should keep improving for the foreseeable future. A classic No. 2 center. Under contract for one more year at $4 million per year. Probably could be extended at roughly $6 million a year. Has brothers.
|So many bros.|
This 24-year-old was the consensus best player in the world until he was felled by a concussion in January 2011. Struggled on and off for some 14 months to get back into the lineup for an extended stretch. Experienced multiple setbacks. Called some bizarre press conference during which his doctors employed Christmas and Ferrari metaphors. Tom Brady got involved. Then there was something about his neck tissue. Came back to stay - we think - late in the regular season and was instantly the top assist man in the game. But he lost his favorite winger to Player A. Goal scoring fell off dramatically from his blistering pre-injury pace. No one could figure out how to squeeze him and Player A onto the same power play unit. Looked lost in the last two games of the season after a punishing collision with Player A. Game is built on explosiveness, which will decline with age. Under contract for 1 more year at $8.7 million. Will command basically whatever he wants as a free agent.
|Just heard Player C is available|
2) He'll net the biggest return
Just as the Penguins would be loathe to part with Crosby because of the boost he gives their image and their business, other teams would pay a premium to get him for those very reasons. Did we mention he's an icon in Canada? Scorer of the Golden Goal, anyone? The Toronto Maple Leafs would package the province of Nova Scotia in a trade for Sidney Crosby.
|The Golden Goal Tax|
3) We're throwing in Paul Martin
Yes, you heard right. If you want Sidney Crosby, you're taking Martin's $5 million salary. We know that you know it's the only way to clear the $13 million we need to accommodate the players you're about to send us. You're welcome.
|Sometimes you can't have the beautiful woman without her venereal disease, too.|
There's Lou Lamoriello on the line, offering negotiating rights with UFA Zach Parise, David Clarkson, Adam Henrique, and Adam Larsson (looking at around $12 million combined) for Crosby and Martin. Maybe Paul can find himself again back in his old stomping grounds. Oh, and they like Sid, too.
Oh, hello Colorado. You'd like to send us a package including Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, negotiating rights to David Jones, and Erik Johnson (now around $12 M combined) for Crosby and Martin?
Stephen Harper? THE Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, is that you? You're offering a 20 year lease on the Athabasca Oil Sands in Northern Alberta and 80% of the profits from the Keystone Pipeline for Crosby and Paul Martin?
|Amazing on the half-boards.|
Toronto, you want to trade us your entire roster? That's not enough. Goodbye.
We're just spitballing here.
This will never happen. But that doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do.