Monday, November 17, 2008

Finally, a trade

But not involving Marian Gaborik. Nor Nikolai Khabibulin. Not even anyone whose best hockey is still in front of him.

No, the trade included Pittsburgh's Darryl Sydor and Dallas' Philipe Boucher, both defensemen in a one-for-one swap.

I'll wait while you go to to find out about those two players.

Okay, back? Good.

From the "it seemed like a good move at the time" department, prior to the start of last season, Pittsburgh signed Sydor to a two-year contract totaling $5 million. The thinking was Sydor would bring a veteran presence to a young defense corps and leadership to a young locker room, what with Sydor having won two Stanley Cups.

Without knowing the nuances of what went on behind closed doors and whatnot, I won't say the experiment failed. Off the ice, Sydor may have done exactly what GM Ray Shero wanted.

The problem was, Shero signed Sydor to an on-ice contract. That part didn't work out so well. Sydor more often than not was a healthy scratch and the few times he did play, only stuck out when he was making mistakes. It didn't take long before he wanted out, but shockingly, there isn't much of a market for an aging, expensive, no-good defenseman.

Or is there?

Sydor fared better this season for the Penguins but was still a healthy scratch and even played left wing a time or two. He split time with Mark Eaton in the press box.

I'm surprised the Penguins moved him in a non-salary dump move. Most fans would have been happy with a draft pick. Instead, Pittsburgh gets Boucher, who scored 19 goals and 51 points just two seasons ago. He's a right-handed shot that can be valuable on the power play, something the Penguins have lacked since current Stars D-man Sergei Zubov was on the club (and fans are still complaining about trading Zubov for Kevin Hatcher).

The problem with Boucher is he hasn't been able to stay healthy the last two seasons. He played just 38 games last season and has registered only 17 points in the last 54 games, which includes a paltry three points (no goals) this year.

I don't know why Dallas made this trade. I'm sure Sydor is happy. He's going to a team that (presumably) wants him and will play him, plus Dallas is where he won one of his Cups (Buffalo fans everywhere just scratched their eyes out; sorry guys.) It's a swap of 35+ defensemen with one year left on a contract that pays $2.5 million, so no one's gaining salary cap space.

Maybe Brett Hull sees something in Sydor the Penguins don't. I think the Penguins got the better end of the trade. At worst, Boucher will probably be quarterbacking the second power play unit, something Sydor rarely did. At best, he'll be on the first unit, ideally with Alex Goligoski, and Evgeni Malkin either slides to the forward position or centers the second PP, giving the Penguins two dangerous units. (And where he won't be giving up shorthanded goals on the blue line.)

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, this doesn't clear up their potential defense problem. It just further muddies the waters. The Penguins are playing without their top two blueliners with the injuries to Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar. Whitney may be back in mid-December. Gonchar will be longer. But when Whitney returns, Pittsburgh will need to decide who to sit among this group: Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Goligoski, Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill, Eaton, Boucher and Whitney. Add Gonchar when he returns.

Orpik, Letang, Scuderi and Whitney should be locks. Gill seems to have lost what little step he had, but at 6-6 should still be able to contribute. Goligoski absolutely belongs in the NHL. Eaton's being paid $2 million annually (why, Ray? Why?!) and early on replaced Sydor as the player Penguins fans want to trade the most. Boucher was just acquired, so...

Shero likes having depth on the blue line but there's going to be one or two quality players who will not be dressing. Maybe he's got another trade in the works. Maybe Boucher is a stopgap until Whitney and/or Gonchar return.

Bottom line, the Penguins received a player they will use in return for a player they weren't. Dallas gets to welcome a Cup winner home, I guess. Maybe the Stars decided Sydor just needed a change of scenery (Boucher too for that matter) and didn't want to wait on Boucher to return to form.

But now that one trade has been made, maybe more will follow around the NHL soon.



Nick in New York said...

Wonder if Hully's pulling favors for old pals? That's a dangerous game, if that's the case.

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

I saw a quote from Hull something to the effect of Sydor will be a stable presence to their defense.

I think both GMs sort of did the other a favor. Sydor praised Shero (or Shero praised Sydor, I can't remember; maybe both) for being professional about the whole thing. Sydor wanted out but he didn't really publicly complain, and Shero sent him somewhere he'll play.

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

I didn't know that Jim Lites gave the OK to the Golden Brett to start a retriement community at the AAC...!

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

That should be 'retirement community'...

Nick in New York said...

props to Sydor for not whining publically (or privately, for that matter). I respect that kind of professionalism.

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

I think he privately told Shero that he wanted out (and I don't blame him), but yeah, he never said in the media that he wanted out, though signs of his discontent were evident. I didn't hear him complain when he played left wing this year either.