by Ron Spence
Thirty NHL GMs are putting together a blueprint for their championship team. They just have a few pieces – here and there – to acquire – and a hundred or so games to play – and they’ll be hoisting Lord Stanley.
I wanted to look at how the current championship team was assembled.
It’s a simplification to say that it was their series of first round picks – like the Islanders, Sens, and Lightning had also accumulated – that resulted in the Cup.
There’s the lower round picks, trades, free agent signings, etc. who made a significant contribution.
Of the 36 players who had been on the Pens’ roster – by the end of the season – 13 had been drafted (shown in yellow) by Pittsburgh. This is a little more than one third of their players, and a few of these didn’t play during the post-season.
Four of the players on the Pens’ 2008-09 roster were undrafted free agents (light green), who attended Pittsburgh training camps, went to the minors, and eventually made it to the Pens’ roster.
Two players (red) were picked up on waivers (Athough Zigomanis was picked up on the way back from the minors in a kind of waiver trade so that Pittsburgh had to pay half of his salary.).
Six players on this year’s roster were acquired via trades (brown). The significant ones were Hal Gill, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.
Eleven of this year’s Pens – a little less than a third of the roster – were signed as free agents (blue). The impact players were Sergei Gonchar, Mark Eaton, Peter Sykora, and Ruslan Fedotenko.
The spreadsheet below shows the Pens’ draft picks from 1998 until 2008. As above, the players highlighted in brown, were those traded away. The players highlighted in yellow were Pens first round picks and those in blue were Pens 2nd round and lower picks.
I have also shown where Pittsburgh’s drafted players played this past season, so that their abundance of prospects is evident.
Of the 13 players that the Pens drafted – and are still on their roster – only five were first round picks: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Brooks Orpik.
One came from the 2nd round and seven from lower rounds.
Alex Goligoski was a 2nd round and Kris Letang a 3rd round pick. Luca Caputi, Tyler Kennedy, and Paul Bissonnette were 4th round picks. Rob Scuderi was a 5th round and Dustin Jeffrey a 6th round pick.
And, Maxime Talbot was an 8th round pick.
To acquire some of their players, the Penguins had to trade first round draft picks: 2001, 2002, 2007, and 2008.
Three of them were for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, and Ryan Whitney was traded to Anaheim for Chris Kunitz and a prospect.
I have separated Craig Patrick’s drafts from Ray Shero’s. Patrick had selected a number of European and college players, and Shero did the same at his first draft – although he picked up Jordan Staal with his 2nd overall pick.
In his 2007 and 2008 drafts, however, Shero selected a number of Major Junior players.
It was near the end of his first season that Ray Shero made two significant deadline deals:
“…Shero sensed the potential for more than just long-range greatness in this team,” wrote Dave Molinari. “He looked beyond its short-term uncertainties — how Sidney Crosby would recover from a high ankle sprain, how goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would fare in high-stakes games — and saw a group that, with the proper infusion of personnel, could be a major force this  spring.”
Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, and Hal Gill arrived in Pittsburgh and helped lead the Pens to the 2008 finals. This spring, Shero acquired two impact forwards in Guerin and Kunitz, and backup goalie Mathieu Garon.
So, it was a blend of draft picks – first and lower – trades, waiver wire pickups and free agent signings that resulted in the team that would win the 2009 Stanley Cup.
Twenty-nine GM’s should adjust their blueprints accordingly.