Here’s an excerpt from my latest TribLive.com column. To read the whole piece, click HERE.
So, does GM Ron Hextall trade draft picks to bolster this group? That seems ill-advised. Never mind organizational depth, the Penguins have precious little talent below the NHL level.
Should Hextall make a so-called "hockey trade" to strengthen? Like the deals then-GM Craig Patrick made in 1991 and '92: Talent for talent. Take a risk, maybe find a better fit.
The Penguins traded John Cullen and Zarley Zalapski in '91, Paul Coffey and Mark Recchi in ‘92. Cullen finished fifth in NHL scoring that season. Zalapski was the fourth pick overall in 1986 and a top-four defenseman. Coffey and Recchi are Hockey Hall-of-Famers.
Ron Francis (another Hall-of-Famer) and Ulf Samuelsson were the big gets in ’91. In ’92, it was Rick Tocchet and Kjell Samuelsson. Talent for talent.
That sort of trade won't happen now: The locker room then was more cutthroat and just wanted to win. This locker room is more fragile. No- and limited-movement clauses are factors. So is having to finagle the salary cap.
P.S. – Imagine the reaction if Hextall made a trade like that.
Patrick was criticized for both swaps. The Hockey News said Hartford won the deal in ’91. The ’92 trade raised eyebrows because Coffey and Recchi had helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup the year prior.
But the ’91 got Francis, the idea complement to Mario Lemieux at center. Ulf Samuelsson's physicality and raw aggression transformed the Penguins. The ’92 trade put Tocchet and Kevin Stevens on Lemieux’s wings: Two battleships that could play.
To get, you’ve got to give.