Penguins general manager Ray Shero had made many great moves in his position since he was hired in 2006. He was named the NHL General Manager of the Year in 2013 after acquiring Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen near the trade deadline without giving up a single player on the Penguins’ NHL roster. Although the moves did not work out as many would have liked, Shero has made plenty of moves that have made a huge impact on the Penguins. In fact, it was really hard to pick his best five trades because there are so many. Anyway, here we go. Here are the Top Five Ray Shero Transactions.
NUMBER 5: STAAL GONE
The 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center was one many Penguins fans will never forget. For a long time, Pittsburgh called Jordan Staal a member of their young core. However, that all changed in June 2012. With only one more season left in Staal’s contract, Shero had a really tough decision to make. He had to first see if Staal would be willing to take a discount to stay with the Penguins. Staal would not. He did not want to negotiate a long-term deal during the 2012 offseason and rejected a respectable ten-year, $60 million contract offer from the Penguins. One day later, Staal was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Brandon Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the eighth-overall pick in the draft, which was used to select defenseman Derrick Pouliot. Losing Staal was very tough for everyone involved in the Penguins organization. However, looking at the situation Shero was going through, he did a great job. Shero did not have any leverage. It was clear that Staal did not feel 100% committed to the Penguins for his future. Shero knew trading him was probably the best thing to do. He did not want to lose such a great player for nothing. Shero was able to snag Sutter, a young defensive center with some offensive potential. Sutter was a nice fit for the Penguins since he would locked in to that third-line center position with Crosby and Malkin as the top two centers. Dumoulin is a good prospect who could be in Pittsburgh very soon. He has looked good in development camp the past two years. Pouliot is a guy the Penguins see developing into a power play quarterback in the future. He is a little farther away from the NHL than Dumoulin is, but it is clear that Pittsburgh is stacked with young defensemen in their system. The trade allowed Staal to have a much larger role and he got the opportunity to play with his brother. Staal had a down year in his first season with Carolina, but hopes to improve in 2013-14. Regardless, the Penguins replaced Staal with a good player, acquired more defensive prospects and saved some cap space with this deal. The trade freed up some money for Shero to keep players like Crosby and Malkin.
NUMBER 4: BILL GUERIN TRADE
Although it did not seem like much at the time, the Penguins traded for forward Bill Guerin from the New York Islanders in exhancge for a conditional draft pick in March 2009. It was a deal that did not have a heavy price tag if things did not work out. However, the deal worked out pretty well for the Penguins. They won the Stanley Cup. In addition to his great on-ice play on Sidney Crosby‘s line, Guerin really excelled off the ice with the young team. Guerin kept the locker room loose with his funny jokes and positive attitude. His NHL experience winning a Stanley Cup in 1995 with the New Jersey Devils didn’t hurt either. Guerin played for Pittsburgh in 2009-10 after re-signing with the team for one year and eventually retired as a Penguin in December 2010. His tenure with the team did not end there though. In June 2011, the Penguins hired Guerin as the player development coach. Who would have thought Guerin would be a coach for the Penguins in 2013 after Shero made that deal for him in 2009? It appears that both parties were a perfect fit for each other in this case.
NUMBER 3: CHRIS KUNITZ TRADE
Shero made another big trade in February 2009 that paid big dividends for his team and still is, quite frankly. Forwards Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi were sent from the Anaheim Ducks to the Penguins in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney in the deal. Kunitz was starting to establish himself in Anaheim as a 20-goal scorer and Tangradi was a very intriguing prospect at the time. Whitney, who had registered 59 points in his second NHL season in 2006-07, was starting to decline in terms of offensive production. The depth on the blue line allowed guys like Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski to step up in Whitney’s absence. The deal provided the Penguins with a physical forward who created space for Crosby and a forward they could possibly use in the future. However, Kunitz has turned out to be much more than that. After registering 52 points (22 goals and 30 assists) in 48 games last season, he received votes for the Hart trophy. Kunitz has not missed a single game the past two regular seasons with the Penguins and his offensive numbers continue to increase as he gets older. Although no one knows if that will continue, playing on a line with Crosby will certainly help him. Kunitz signed a three-year extension this offseason with an average annual value of $3.85 million per season. Kunitz’s production alone won the deal for Shero and the Penguins in this case. Whitney has been making $4 million per season for the past six years and was a healthy scratch at some points with the Edmonton Oilers. I think Shero is pretty happy with how things worked out.
NUMBER 2: THE REAL DEAL JAMES NEAL
Shero and the Penguins has been looking for a sniper to play along Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for the long haul in 2011. They found him in James Neal, who was acquired from the Dallas Starswith defenseman Matt Niskanen in exhange for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Neal, who was 23 at the time of the trade, had already scored at least 21 goals in his first three NHL seasons. He was a young winger who had a ton of potential. Somehow, Shero was able to scoop up Neal and a former first-round pick in Niskanen for Goligoski, who had been very inconsistent with the Penguins. However, Goligoski is also still young. In 2011-12, the Penguins realized that they made a good decision when Neal notched 40 goals and 41 assists in 80 games. Neal spent most of the season playing with Malkin because Crosby had been out with injuries. It turned out pretty well though as Malkin went on to win the Hart trophy. Malkin and Neal have been on the same line ever since and that will not be changing anytime soon. In addition to Neal’s success, Niskanen has also had some success with the Penguins, calling it an organization he fell in love with. Goligoski ended up signing a four-year extension worth $18.4 million with the Stars a year after the trade and could still end up being a good defenseman for the Stars. This trade was a great hockey deal because both teams benefited. Pittsburgh received the winger they needed to play with Malkin and Dallas acquired a young puck-moving defenseman. However, in terms of production and potential, the Penguins got the better end with Neal. He is only 25 years old and will be in a Penguins sweater through the 2017-18 season at an average annual value of $5 million. If Neal can continue to put in 40 goals every season, this trade should be near the top of the list of Shero’s best trades. What a steal for the real deal, James Neal.
NUMBER 1: MARIAN HOSSA/PASCAL DUPUIS TRADE
Every Penguins fan remembers where they were on February 26, 2008. The NHL trade deadline day is always fun to watch, but some people were not sure what the Penguins would do. With an hour to go before the deadline, there was not much buzz about Pittsburgh. That is because Shero was very busy. He had to make a decision to make a big splash. Mario Lemieux told Shero to do what he thinks is best for the team and he did just that. With minutes left until 3:00 PM, Shero pulled the trigger on a deal that sent elite forward Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh. Hossa would immediately start playing with Crosby when Crosby returned from an injury. The Penguins also acquired a “throw-in” forward named Pascal Dupuis with Hossa in exchange for forwards Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, Angelo Esposito and Pittsburgh’s 2008 first-round pick. Many fans were concerned about the price tag the Penguins had to pay, but Hossa and Dupuis quickly made sure fans thought they were worth it. Hossa tallied 12 goals and 14 assists in 20 postseason games that took the Penguins all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Although they lost to the Detroit Red Wings, the trade sent a message to the entire league that the Penguins were going into “win-now” mode. The management’s plan had been accelerated in 2008 and it set the bar even higher for the franchise. The Penguins expected to be a contender for the championship every season from then on. Although Hossa left the Penguins after the 2008 postseason, he had a huge impact on Pittsburgh’s future. He helped the team get experience in the game’s biggest stage and prepared them for the future. Dupuis, on the other hand, decided to stay with Pittsburgh and it paid off. He won the Stanley Cup in 2009 and watched Hossa lose in the Finals for the second year in a row. Dupuis is one of the most popular Penguins players because of his personality and on-ice play. When he first came to the Penguins, he was mostly considered a role player to many around the league. Pittsburgh made him more than that by plugging him next to Crosby and Dupuis’ numbers skyrocketed. In 2012-13, Dupuis notched 20 goals and 18 assists in 48 games. He may have had a career year with the Penguins if the NHL lockout would not have happened. The year before that, he set those career highs with 25 goals and 34 assists for a total of 50 points with Pittsburgh. Also, that supposed high price tag for Hossa and Dupuis in 2008 seems to be pretty cheap now. Christensen and Armstrong are no longer in the NHL. Esposito never even made it past the AHL and the player who the Thrashers selected with Pittsburgh’s pick (Daultan Leveille) has been stuck in the ECHL the past two years. Hossa could have stayed with Pittsburgh for a long time, but his departure allowed the Penguins to sign other key players and bring in guys like Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz. Dupuis has turned out to be much more than a “throw-in” role player with Pittsburgh as well. It’s funny how the world of sports works sometimes. Hossa’s stay in Pittsburgh didn’t last long, but this deal began a new era in Penguins history.
As we said before, there are probably some other trades you may have considered for the list. What would be your top five? Let us know in the comments section!