Patience in the Igloo, please!
Are the Pens better with Hossa? Of course. But they are not prohibitive favorites to win the Cup. Fact is, they paid a prohibitive price to land the 29-year-old Hossa, who arrived in Pittsburgh the same way he left Atlanta — on target to be an unrestricted free agent as of July 1. They gave up a lot of equity, in terms of player talent, for what could be a very short-term rental.
That's right, all of 127 days from acquiring Hossa, and giving up the likes of Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen and a first-round draft pick, the Pens could see him walk out of town for good, and for little more than a handshake as he gets into the cab to take him to the airport.
That's not to say that Penguins GM Ray Shero made a bad deal, but it is to say that he took a tremendous risk, one that he didn't have to take, considering that he has two of the game's brightest young stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, already on his roster. It's not like Shero had to prove anything to the club's fan base, or sell any more tickets. Crosby and Malkin have made the Penguins one great sell.
Now, if the Penguins win the Cup, then it's a brilliant move, whether Hossa hitches on for a few more years or not. But the likes of Anaheim and Detroit still have a much better chance of winning — a chance that likely equals Hossa's chance of testing the free-agent market in July. Anaheim and Detroit both have better goaltending than Pittsburgh, which ultimately could prove the Penguins great undoing.
Is Ty Conklin a true No. 1 netminder? For a couple of months now, he's been that in Pittsburgh, but he remains very much an unproven product, especially in the playoffs. Perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury will be healthy enough to carry the load, but the 23-year-old has only five games of postseason experience and a 1-4 record.
And if that sounds thin, consider the Conklin's postseason record is only 0-1.
As risky as the Hossa acquisition looks, the Penguins net right now looks even riskier.
''I know my stats are not great in the playoffs,'' he said initially after being traded. ''I am aware of it.''
If he doesn't improve those numbers, he'll be made even more aware of it. For now, be it fair or unfair, as far as Penguins fans are concerned, he is the city's Cup courier. History shows that can be one tough delivery route.
Q: I’m a big Brad Richards fan and as much as I’ll miss him here in Tampa, I’m thrilled to see him have a shot at winning another Cup. Will the move to Dallas revive his career?
— Russ from Tampa, Fla.
A: Richards, only 27 years old, is young enough and talented enough to make a tremendous impact in Dallas.
All season long, the Stars have been looking to find Mike Modano a winger, and although Richards is officially a center, look for him to team up quite often on a trio with Big Mo. Also look for him to get plenty of power-play time in a number of different configurations.
Richards, who won a Cup with the Bolts in '04, somehow got lost in the Lightning lineup, perhaps because Vincent Lecavalier emerged as such a superstar as the lockout approached, and then when play resumed in 2005. Richards also was vastly overpaid, two years ago signing a five-year contract worth $7.8 million a year. I think the money also worked against him, constantly putting pressure on him to perform ''up to the money''.
All in all, Russ, I would guess that Richards gets hot right away with the Stars, in part because they've played so well of late. He'll be eager to succeed, and I think the rest of the Stars roster will respond around him, too. Feels like a revival to me.
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