With the team mired in its recent slump, many are calling for drastic action. Logical approaches can be made for and against such decisions, as clearly this team is in need of a spark. Whether that spark can be drawn from players already in the organization, as Ray Shero suggests, or must be brought in via trade, is still up for debate. Personally, I believe the best course of action lies somewhere in the middle, as there is no player currently available that could take this team's roster as it stands today and turn them into Cup contenders on their own. To pursue such a big fish would ultimately be both a waste of assets and likely cause cap problems for next year. However, the addition of a lower profile player with size that could be obtained relatively cheaply could prove to be a smart move.
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If a higher profile player is in fact to be acquired, it would likely cost the team more than a middling defender like Lovejoy or Niskanen. Perhaps no two players are consistently hoped to be packaged in a deal than Chris Kunitz or Paul Martin. Yet is the amount of criticism received warranted? Despite how one feels about each player, would it be beneficial for the team for either of them to be moved before or at the deadline?
Starting with Kunitz, the answer is a resounding no. For starters, his cap his is very reasonable. Those who feel he is overpaid are kidding themselves with what money can buy on today's free agent market. While he may not be necessarily cheap, a winger that can play physical hockey and pot close to 30 a year while fitting a team's system to a tee for under 4 million a year is fair value. His numbers may have been stronger in the beginning of the year, but what player's numbers aren't dipping right now? It is not a reach to suggest that the pressure on the Pen's offense that causes Malkin to attempt to take it all on himself to weave through the defense or attempt crazy backhand passes is extremely difficult for a straight-line player such as Kunitz to play with. In the situation of Crosby's return, be it this year or next, Kunitz provides the perfect compliment, with the ability to create room on the ice as well as being able to cash in many of the opportunities Sid creates. Even for this team as it stands today, you will be hard pressed to find a drastic improvement over Kunitz for close to his cap hit. Those expecting numbers on par with wingers such as Nash or Gaborik will always be disappointed, but the reality is the team could neither afford or needs him to be that.
A more sound case can be made to move Martin, with his 5 million dollar cap hit. Yet even that argument is not without its flaws. Martin may seem to be overpaid, but it is hard to fault Shero for that contract, as he seemed to be paying market value to shore up the last remaining need for the team in the offseason in which he and Michalek were signed. The team now has many options on defense, the majority of which are both younger and cheaper. Yet for this team in the here and now, Martin is not a piece that must be moved immediately. His recent struggles have been glaring, but that is largely due to the absence of Letang, forcing him to become a puck moving point threat player that is not in his skill set. He is a smooth skating defender capable of logging major minutes, a commodity prized in the NHL. The eventual return of Letang could allow Martin to slide back into a secondary role in which is primary duty is to shut down the opposition through positioning, a role he has excelled at before.
Eventually, youngsters like Morrow and Despres may prove to make Martin a luxury this team no longer needs, and he can be moved to free up cap room. That time may be as early as next year, but it is not yet now the case. It is doubtful that whatever forward that could be acquired by moving Martin would have as large of an impact that losing him could potentially have.
Shero has not shown himself to be afraid to pull the trigger on a move, and fans clamoring for him to do so should realize that given the opportunity to improve the team, he will not watch it pass by. Yet a mark of a good GM is not gutting your team in response to a 6 game losing streak suffered without many of your best players. It may be difficult to swallow, but fans must wait and see what the next few weeks reveal about the health of their team, rather than who is being shipped out the door. Thoughts?
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