As has been reported regularly by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review‘s Rob Rossi, the Pittsburgh Penguins have already made a couple offers to Vancouver to acquire the 29-year-old center/wing. Outside of some rumblings regarding the Oilers’ Ales Hemsky, there hasn’t been much buzz connecting the Pens to anyone else of note.
I wrote last week on the feasibility of acquiring Kesler, with the main point being that bringing him into the fold would enhance the Penguins’ roster for the next two full seasons, plus this spring of course. The league’s salary cap will skyrocket over the $70 million mark next year, so the Pens (and other high-spending teams) are about to get a lot more financial freedom.
That extra leeway will make Kesler’s $5 million salary fit a lot more comfortably, while also allowing Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero to augment a forward corps that is looking woefully thin at the moment. Even if Beau Bennett returns soon, the Pens’ bottom six forwards are still short of championship caliber.
But what if Shero can’t find a way to work out a deal with Vancouver counterpart Mike Gillis? Should the Penguins simply go with what they have this season and then try to load up via free agency in the summertime? Rossi reports that team leadership feels the Eastern Conference is there for the taking, making it quite likely Shero and his staff make at least one move to try to improve the team.
There are other options out there, from Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri to Buffalo’s Matt Moulson and even Tampa Bay star Martin St. Louis in the longshot category. Unfortunately, Cammalleri and Moulson will see their existing contracts expire at the end of the season, while St. Louis claims he only wants to play for the Rangers if he’s dealt.
But while Shero has said he’d like to avoid “rentals” this season, beggars can’t be choosers. With Kris Letang possibly done for the season and Paul Martin in the press box for at least the next month, the Penguins may need more offensive punch to counteract a weakened group of defensemen.
That is, they’ll need that extra help if they’re committed to going all out in pursuit of another Stanley Cup. Shero’s track record – and the mentality of co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle – suggests the Pens will be aggressive this week, even if circumstances make it more difficult than usual.