Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dominos begin to fall?

The Pittsburgh Penguins kicked off their 2009 trade season Saturday by acquiring Edmonton goaltender Mathieu Garon in exchange for goalie Dany Sabourin, forward Ryan Stone and a fourth round pick in 2011.

Analysis: A friend of mine called me and said, "What am I supposed to think of this trade?"

I thought about it for a few seconds, then a few more, then a few more. Eventually, I came up with two possible answers: First, that Marc-Andre Fleury is hurt again. But a strong 3-1 win over Anaheim Friday makes that unlikely.

The second, and more plausible answer, is that management/coaching is not happy with Fleury's performance - nor should they be - so they're bringing in Garon to push Fleury to perform better. Garon (6-8-0, 3.17 GAA, .890 pct) fared well a year ago in a rotation with Dwayne Roloson but his numbers this year have been rather poor. Maybe that's a product of the defense in front of him. I don't see the Oilers enough to judge.

Sabourin (6-8-2, 2.85, .898) was an effective backup, capable of a strong spot start here and there. He's not a starter. He did very well initially in place of Fleury earlier this season, but as he got more starts, he gave up more goals. He won't push Fleury for the No. 1 job.

But I'm not sure Garon will do that either. Nor am I sure that's the right message management wants to be sending to their $5 million goalie. If it lights a fire under Fleury and he becomes a shutdown goalie again, then it'll do the trick. Maybe Garon becomes Ty Conklin 2.0. Conklin almost singlehandedly saved the Pens' season a year ago when Fleury was injured. But it won't be a good sign if Garon supplants Fleury in between the pipes.

Stone was a formerly promising power forward type but had several rather underwhelming training camps and played his way out of the team's long-term plans. His loss is no big deal.

Giving up a draft pick is a bit of a headscratcher too. This team needs to add to its depth, not keep trading away picks.

This deal came out of nowhere. Of all the things the Penguins need - and that list is long - I didn't think a backup goalie was a high priority.

Earlier this month, Atlanta traded Jason Williams to Columbus and Los Angeles shipped Jason LaBarbera to Vancouver. So who's next?


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