The NHL Trade Deadline is exactly one week away, and already there have been some major moves. The Pittsburgh Penguins became a lot stronger today with the acquisitions of forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen. But, what does this add for the Pens? Well, at 23, Neal is a strong power forward at the left wing position (a pretty thin scoring spot with Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Maxim Talbot). If Crosby makes it back before the playoffs (or during the playoffs at all) then Neal should be a great fit beside Sid the Kid and take a lot of the goal scoring pressure off of number 87. Kunitz and Neal provide great depth on the top two lines, especially because of the loss of Evgeni Malkin.
Jordan Staal will have to play a much bigger offensive role in his absence, and maybe GM Ray Shero has some more tricks up his sleeve potentially trying to acquire Ales Hemsky or Dustin Penner from the Edmonton Oilers. Hemsky is a point-per-game player when healthy, and could come at the price of a 1st-round draft pick and a quality prospect. Two things, that Shero can afford to move considering this is not a rebuilding team. Solid at the center position and on the back end with experienced players in Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik.
Hemsky has another year on his contract at around $4-million, which is affordable for Shero if he includes a guy like Talbot to shed some salary (and Talbot could bring some winning experience to a youthful Oilers squad).
The addition of Matt Niskanen to the blueline gives the Pens more youth on the back end and in the system. It looks like they have the best defensive corps heading into the playoffs aisde from the Vancouver Canucks, who happen to have five of their opening night starters currently on the injured list.
If Crosby can come back at 100% in time for the playoffs, and Marc-Andre Fleury continues his stellar play as of late, there is no reason to think that this team (with a couple more deadline acquisitions) won't do some damage in April.