PENGUINS BUSY TUESDAY BEFORE NHL TRADING DEADLINE
Ray Shero wanted to add without really subtracting from the Penguins.
He achieved that Tuesday at the NHL trading deadline.
Shero acquired three players - Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque and defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski - while giving up only one (Dominic Moore) on the Penguins' roster.
"I really didn't want to take anyone off the team. As a group, I really believed in this team. I think it's important for us to realize this is a group that has got us to where we are," Shero said. "These young guys, I still want them to learn from the experience here. I didn't want to be subtracting players and not letting these young guys get experience, which I think will be valuable for them. I am happy where we are. I believe in the group that we have here. If we didn't do anything at the trade deadline, this is the group that got us here and I'd be happy with that. To make the couple moves we made was really good for our team and I think it will be a positive addition for us."
On Tuesday, the Penguins acquired:
*Forward Gary Roberts from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Noah Welch.
*A third-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft from Minnesota in exchange for forward Dominic Moore.
*Forward Georges Laraque from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for left wing Daniel Carcillo and a third-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft .
*Defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
*Goaltender Nolan Schaefer from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a seventh-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Schaefer was assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
"We try to identify the needs we can address. We really felt with forward, in terms of the grit and experience was one we wanted to address," Shero said. "So, getting guys like Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque is a good thing for our hockey club right now. With losing Noah Welch, I was really concerned about our depth, so a guy like Kwiatkowski, whether he's going to be sixth, seventh or eighth [on the depth chart], is a guy who has done that throughout his career.
"I think they will be valuable additions now and it will be valuable experience for our young kids," he continued. "We subtracted one player in Dominic Moore, who I really liked and I traded for him. I think he did a really good job in his role here with us. From our particular needs, I am very happy for what we got and really stuck with the group we have."
Roberts, 40, brings a wealth of experience - and a history of success - to a young Penguins squad in the midst of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
"We're excited. It's great news for our club to get a guy like Gary Roberts," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "He has a lot of experience. He's been recognized as a hard guy to play against. He has a lot of character. He reminds me a little bit of my time in Montreal when one of our better players was 40 years old in Doug Gilmour. He stepped up his game and was virtually one of the best players on the ice in the playoffs against the Bruins. Those guys, beside the skill and talent they have, are the kinds of players who have a lot of pride. It's going to be a good thing for those young kids to learn from players like that.
"The race to make the playoffs is tight. We're thinking that adding a player like this will help. We want to win and be a part of that playoff group. Right now, we put ourselves in a position to be there."
Indeed. While Roberts brings experience, he also brings talent - which made him a good fit for the Penguins, according to Shero.
"He just plays the game the way it's meant to be played this time of year. That's why we've identified him as a guy we wanted to add to our forward group and play with that kind of youthful enthusiasm so we're looking forward to having him," he said. "I think his biggest impact is going to be on the ice. He can still play the game and he's going to have a significant effect there. Of course with our younger players and with the help of guys like Mark Recchi, Sergei Gonchar and Jocelyn Thibault and our other veteran players, I think he's going to be a help there. When our players see the preparation that goes into what he's been through for his career with all the games played and playoff series, I think that will only benefit our guys in the future."
Roberts has 424 goals, 451 assists and 2,467 penalty minutes in 19 NHL seasons. The left winger had 13 goals, 16 assists and 71 PIMs in 50 games with the Panthers this season.
"I think he's well-respected. He's very physical and he's a hard guy to play against," Penguins winger Mark Recchi said. "He scores goals and he can do whatever you need him to do. I think it's a perfect fit for our hockey club right now.
In his ninth NHL season, Laraque brings instant toughness and skill to the Penguins.
"Look at his fights," Shero said. "I think he's recognized by everybody as the toughest guy in the league."
Laraque has tallied 22 points (5+17), along with 52 penalty minutes in 56 games with the Coyotes this season. The 6-3, 243-pounder has registered seven multi-point games, while posting a plus-or-even rating in 48 of 56 games with Phoenix, including plus-or-even in 23 of his last 24 games, with a plus-7 overall rating.
"He has that respect and he's also a guy who has played on good teams in Edmonton and played in the playoffs," Shero said. "Whatever his role is going to be, he's always been very popular with his teammates and he's a guy who has always stuck up for his teammates. I am not sure Georges is going to be the one who is instigating things. That is not his role. He is the guy that is there. I think it makes us a better team and I think it makes us a more-confident team. I think it addresses a need that we had. To me, if Georges Laraque is available, I am happy he is in Pittsburgh."
The deal reunites the 30-year-old Laraque, who has registered 133 points (48+85) and 878 penalty minutes in 546 NHL career contests, with Therrien. Laraque was part of the Therrien-coached team in Granby that won the Memorial Cup in the 1995-96 season.
"There was another trade where he could have gone to another team, but he chose Pittsburgh. I think Georges Laraque, a veteran player, choosing Pittsburgh over another team is really good for us for the future," Shero said. "I really think that when Georges Laraque was available, there have been some instances around the league that I wanted to be in position - not only for our young guys, but the rest of the players, too - that they feel comfortable and they are taken care of. I am really proud of the group we have. They have done a great job with the team toughness and defending themselves and stepping up for each other. He is a guy who I have said all along has to be able to play and he can do that. Also, if you ask anyone, he is the toughest guy in the league and brings some instant credibility to our team on the ice."
Kwiatkowski, 29, adds depth to the Penguins defensive corps. The six-year NHL veteran has 10 points (5+5) in 41 games for the Panthers this year. The 6-foot, 202-pounder has collected 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 263 NHL career games. He has also competed in six Stanley Cup playoff games.
"He gives us more experience. He's a very good skater," Shero said. "He can play forward as well, so he's a swing guy. These are the types of move you make the deadline. I am happy as to what we did."
Recchi was elated the Penguins were able to bring in talent at the trade deadline as opposed to sending it away as in years past.
"It's nice to be buyers, definitely. I think Ray's done a terrific job identifying the type of people he wants to bring in here. I think he's done a great job," he said. "Ray is a very smart, intelligent man. He's a very good hockey person and he's definitely doing great things for us."