With the Penguins professional scouting organizational meetings scheduled to get underway early next week, the team’s off-season blueprint is getting close to taking shape.
However, this could very well be the week that GM Ray Shero begins to lay the groundwork of any potential big trades leading into the draft or later this summer for his hockey club.
While it’s a near certainty Shero will get some General Manager’s asking about Jordan Staal this week in New York City as the NHL’s GM’s will be gathering for the GM meetings, there’s nothing coming out of the organization yet to suggest that Shero will listen to offers for Staal before he can start negotiating with Staal on July 1. Talk though around the league is that Rick Nash will be the story league wide going into the meetings, but the Penguins could be among the top stories coming out of the meetings as there’s some whispers going around that Shero has yet to decide internally to move forward with his current core group.
There’s also some intrigue in league circles of whether Shero fully intends to move defenseman Paul Martin who is coming offÂ a disappointing season and has three years, $14 million left on his deal and a no movement clause
If Shero is adamant about shaking up his blueline and moving his highest priced defender, this would be the week at the GM meetings that Shero begins to start gauging Martin’s trade value and laying the groundwork for a potential deal later this summer.
NHL sources we’ve spoken with are certain that Pittsburgh will be exploring Martin’s trade value in the coming weeks, but one thing I’m told regarding Martin is that under no circumstances will the Penguins be looking to move Martin for next to nothing. The team is not down on him like others are and it’s one thing to explore a players trade value than being fully committed to moving him. Right now it’s still not clear whether the Penguins are committed to trading him and clearing up a spot on the blueline but we’ll find out soon enough.
Talk around the league remains the same from the trade deadline in that there will be a market for Martin if the Penguins go that route. One consensus though emerging from league contacts is that moving Martin would likely have to involve the Penguins taking some salary back.
MALONE TALK UNLIKELY TO GO AWAY
Tampa Bay’s strong pursuit of Martin during free agency in summer ofÂ 2010 and a strong need for a top-4 defenseman this off-season,Â has led to a possible Martin – Ryan Malone swap being floated out there for a while now.
Both players have three years remaining on their deals with Malone carrying a $4.5 million cap hit. Malone, 32, turns 33 in December and has shown signs of his body wearing down as he’s struggled to stay healthy at times over the last three years. Malone has not appeared in over 70 games since 2008-2009 but did appear in 68 games last season, producing 20 goals and 48 points. He can stillÂ be a factor offensivelyÂ with 20 goal seasons in four of the last five years, but one reason Tampa Bay would likely be turned off of a Martin – Malone swap is Malone has low annual salaries of $3 million, $2.5 million and $2.5 million the next three seasons, compared to the 31 year old Martin who’s due salaries of $4 million, $5 million and $5 million the next three seasons.
HAVLAT – MARTIN SWAP?
A reader of the site asked my opinion last week via email of a Paul Martin – Marty Havlat swap, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it asÂ it is an intriguing scenario as both players could very well be on the trade block this summer.
From a financial standpoint, it would be an even swap with both Martin and Havlat having three years remaining on their deal and both players carrying a $5 million cap hit. Havlat will be entering the fourth year of a 6 year, $30 million contract, while Martin will be entering the third year of a 5 year, $25 million contract.
Martin has a no movement clause and a limited no trade clause. Havlat does not have any clauses in his contract.
Both players are 31 years old with Martin turning 32 in March and Havlat turning 32 in April.
Both players are also coming off disappointing seasons as Havlat appeared in just 39 games, scoring 7 goals and 20 assists for 27 points in his first season as a Shark. Havlat added 2 goals and an assist in five playoff games.
The PRO’S with acquiring Havlat is that he’s a top-end player from a skill standpoint and would have the potential to thrive as a complementary player on a line with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, giving the Penguins a top-6 winger group that would include James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Havlat.
As much intrigue there would be surrounding Havlat, he comes with risks due to his contract and struggles to stay healthy during his career, although prior to last season, he seemed to be over the injury bug as he appeared in 81 games, 73 games and 78 games the three previous seasons (2008-2009 through 2010-2011).
The knock on Havlat from scouts I spoke with late last week is that he appears to be on the downside of his career from a goal scoring standpoint. Havlat is averaging 0.25 goals per game over the last three seasons. While Havlat is a top-end skilled player, he’s not a player who can consistently take over games.
For the Sharks defensively, they have five defensemen under contract for 2012-2013 season with Jim Vandermeer and Colin White scheduled to be free agents and Justin Braun a pending restricted free agent. San Jose only has two defensemen under contract for the 2013-2014 season.
NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: My apologies on the lack of updates of late but here at Insidepittsburghsports.com, we are contemplating the possibility of moving into pretty much an exclusive hockey siteÂ providing strong basis of content (analysis, Insider reports, rumors, news, ect) on Pens, NHL, while also putting a strong focus on prospect features, reports. Hockey is our biggest following by a wide margin and has been the backbone of the site for over four years now. Discussions have also centered on still having a small section dedicated to Steelers, Pirates but we would be moving into an even more hockey driven site. Would love some input from you guys on the matter. Feel free to email me your thoughtsÂ at firstname.lastname@example.org — DePaoli —