PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 31: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and General Manager Ray Shero of the Penguins walk into a press conference held before the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 31, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shero and Crosby addressed the media concerning Crosby's injuries. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
By standing pat, Shero gave the Penguins a vote of confidence.
Sometimes what you don't do says a lot more than what you actually do.
Case in point: Ray Shero, general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Over the years, Shero has shown a penchant for the spectacular as the NHL trade deadline draws near.
- On his first deadline, in 2007, he pulled off a number of small moves, but had one major goal in mind: toughen up the team. The acquisitions of Penguin cult hero Gary Roberts and noted heavyweight brawler Georges Laraque provided that. Mission accomplished.
- In 2008, he made his biggest deadline-day splash, pulling off a blockbuster seemingly out of nowhere. Shero brought in Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first round pick. The moves were made not only because he thought the Penguins had a chance to succeed, but to show the NHL that the franchise was serious again. Mission accomplished.
- In 2009, Shero not only fired head coach Michel Therrien just over a week before the deadline, but he pulled off another big move, acquiring Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi from Anaheim for puck-moving defenseman Ryan Whitney. The primary goal was to add a scoring winger to a team that sorely needed one, but Shero also proved he wasn't afraid to mess with the recipe that returned the Penguins to competence. They won the Stanley Cup, so the mission was obviously accomplished.
- In 2010, he added a puck-moving defenseman in Jordan Leopold and a scoring winger in Alexei Ponikarovsky. Ponikavovsky didn't score, but both moves addressed needs.
- In 2011, with the team facing a spate of injuries, Shero executed the much-ballyhooed Alex Goligoski for James Neal and Matt Niskanen trade, as well as bringing in Alex Kovalev to hopefully add some punch on offense. Three skilled players in, one skilled player and a draft pick out. Reinforcements arrived. Missions all accomplished.
At the 2012 trade deadline Shero did ... nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip.
The resulting statement was simple: Mission accomplished.
Shero likes what he sees from the team, and rightfully so. The Penguins are playing the brand of hockey that he and head coach Dan Bylsma have worked toward for years now. Fast and aggressive, small, but physical and built to skate for miles and miles.
So why tinker with what's working?
Minor flaws with the roster are bound to be found. Fans and analysts alike irritated with Paul Martin's less-than-convincing play this season were hoping to see the defenseman and his $5 million price tag shipped away. Same with backup goaltender Brent Johnson.
Problem is, the Penguins, a team most definitely aiming to win a championship, would've had trouble finding replacements equal to the losses. How many defensemen with Martin's pedigree would've been available and affordable? How about Johnson's experience and usual competence in a backup role?
Also factoring into things is the harsh reality that the club is dangerously close to the salary cap ceiling and Sidney Crosby's price tag is currently not on the books. The key word is "currently."
Whenever, if ever, Crosby does come back, that salary will affect the Penguins' cap number once more. The days he missed won't work in the club's favor by taking a portion of his earnings away from his cap number. All of it will come back, even retroactively.
Was Shero handcuffed a bit? Perhaps. But that never stopped him before.