Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pens looking to get something from nothing?

Interesting whispers have come out of Columbus, namely the Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline's blog:

The two clubs have had preliminary trade talks, the Dispatch has learned. The discussions have involved Pittsburgh trading the rights to one or two of their pending unrestricted free agents -- players the Penguins have decided they can't keep because of the salary cap -- to the Blue Jackets for draft pick or player

It's unclear who the players are, but Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik seem like logical choices. Hey, why not Marian Hossa?

My guess is the Blue Jackets will be giving up draft picks. I don't think anything is imminent. Right now, Penguins GM Ray Shero has to be sweating it out deciding
who he's going to keep or let go...When he figures out how he's going to build the roster, the trading could commence.

The conventional wisdom each summer is that talks won't get serious until the draft gets underway on on June 20. But that's not true anymore.

We agree that if anything would happen, it's probably going to be more towards the draft day, and the return for Pittsburgh almost certainly will be draft picks. The Penguins gave up their first three picks to acquire roster players (1st for Hossa, 2nd for Hal Gill and the 3rd to get Georges Laraque last year).

At this point, the key word in the quoted artice is "preliminary". We wouldn't imagine anything is imminent, Shero's probably looking at all possibilities open to him. There is a history to this, right before the "silly season" of free agent signing in 2002 a couple of deals were made. The only one we can remember off the top of our head is Toronto sending UFA to be Tie Domi to Nashville for an 8th round pick. The rationale was a loop-hole in the old CBA that a low budget team like Nashville would get a compensatory pick for losing Domi (who ended up going back to Toronto) and Toronto got a little extra. Toronto, we believe, wouldn't have stood to gain a compensatory pick had they lost Domi because they spent too much money on salary and weren't eligible for the pick under the terms of the previous CBA.

Back to present day, this makes sense for the Pens. If initial talks with Malone or Orpik showed the players were asking for more money than Pittsburgh could budget, or if the players were interested in seeing just how much they could get when 30 teams bid on their services, Pittsburgh doesn't get much when they walk. At least by trading the short-term rights to a UFA to be, they could receive a needed draft pick in two weeks.

By that same token, if the player really wanted to test the open market, what good would it do to trade his rights for conditional draft picks that likely won't come to pass. And while the article specifically mentions Malone, Orpik and Hossa, the Penguins have a host of other impending free agents (Laraque, Adam Hall, Pascal Dupuis, Jarkko Ruutu and Ty Conklin, among others). Perhaps Columbus specifically contacted Pittsburgh about getting a leg up on everyone else when it comes to getting a chance to negotiate with a lesser light. It's pure speculation on our end, of course, but right now no one seems to know much of anything.

We're not sure how the NHL would respond to a conditional trade like this--they weren't happy about the Toronto/Nashville shenanigans back in 2002-- but something would be better than nothing. Plus the last CBA was hundreds and hundreds of pages of legal mumbo-jumbo that dozens and dozens of lawyers wrote, proofread and tweaked. With examples like the 2002 loophole still a little fresh on their minds, we think if they wanted to close it, it would have been done. But then again compared to the major issues of that document (salary cap, defining revenues to be shared, etc) this couldn't have been too prominent on the radar.

And say, who was the assistant GM back in Nashville that would have knowledge of this practice to be keyed in? The very same Shero. This will be an interesting development to watch unfold.

Also last season it might be relevant to point out that the Preds dealt to UFA to bes (Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell) for a first round pick last summer, so it seems recent precedent would be in favor of this deal to happen.

Where there's smoke there's not always fire, but since this is coming from a non-rumormongering source that's actually based in the other city, we won't flat out dismiss it as trash.

Eyes and ears open Pens fans, business is most assuredly about to pick up.

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