During the course of the season just about every team faces injuries and players being out of the lineup. It happens. In sports, especially in a physical and demanding sport like hockey, guys will get injured or nicked up. Sprains, torn ligaments, broken bones, muscle problems, and more can happen to any guy on just about any night. But sometimes injuries can completely change the make-up of a team or take out a player so important that it can alter a teams course.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are facing that right now. With top player/face of the franchise Sidney Crosby out and dealing with a concussion, the Penguins were already dealing with a big injury. There is not a set time table for Sid’s return to the lineup and it is looking like it could be a couple more weeks at least. So the Penguins, already a team that is considered by many (including myself in a past BBTB post) to be a “buyer” this trade deadline in search of some scoring/winger help, are without their top player and possible MVP (again). But this week the Penguins got the proverbial “low blow” when they were already down. The team’s second best threat and another one of the top 10-15 offensive players in the NHL went down. Evgeni Malkin tore both his ACL and MCL in his right knee and now is most likely out for the season. While Pens will not call it yet and are trying to make it sound like there is a slight chance he could be back without surgery, I tore both ligaments in my right knee in high school and the full recovery took me about 6 months. And I am in college, so it was not a long time ago. So the idea of him coming back is not a believed one by many, and I don’t see him being able to recover without surgery.
The question now boils down to what the Penguins next move is. They are not a strong team on the wings, and were already probably looking to upgrade their offense or add on someone. The team has a strong defense, and had three great centers that could all play on one of the top two lines for most teams in the league. But now they have a void overall in their forwards. The only of those centers left, Jordan Staal, just came back from a longtime away with an injury himself. Center, winger, shoot even with their 4th liners as those guys will probably have to try and step up in any way possible for this team. So now Malkin may have set off a chain reaction. The Penguins will probably wait a week or so until they have a chance to fully asses the injuries and start looking at options, but the Penguins may now be the team to make the first move. The may now be looking anywhere and in whatever way they can to bring in a top 6 forward of any position, and if it is a winger then possibly still adding a center. Names like the Flames Jarome Iginla if the Flames can be convinced to trade him, or maybe the Senators Mike Fisher are two guys that pop to mind. Both are top players and could come in now that Malkin’s salary will be off the books. Kris Versteeg also could be an option as a winger as I keep hearing more and more this week about that he could be on the market along with a few other Maple Leafs. No matter who it is, I can almost guarantee and would put money on the line that the Penguins use that available cap room. And I believe that they will not wait long either after they find out for sure if Malkin is out for a long time or until next season. The first shoe may have dropped and now the Penguins look to be the team most likely to pull the trigger first on a big deal.