A player of Sidney Crosby’s caliber is expected to win more than one Stanley Cup championship over the course of his career. The Pittsburgh Penguins are attempting to assemble the pieces that will help secure another title for their captain.
Crosby was dubbed as the next superstar when he entered the NHL and has not disappointed, winning the Ted Lindsay Award three times, the Art Ross and Hart Trophies twice each and the Maurice Richard Trophy once. But in 10 seasons, the 27-year-old has captured the Stanley Cup just one time (2009), and he hasn’t reached the Stanley Cup Final since.
Hockey is the ultimate team sport, however, and Crosby needs a good amount of help in order to claim another title. The Penguins have been hard at work this offseason to provide the assistance Crosby needs.
General manager Jim Rutherford began the process on July 1, when he acquired Phil Kessel and defenseman Tim Erixon from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rutherford continued his work last week with a pair of moves that brought two solid forwards who can contribute at both ends of the ice.
In a trade that sent Brandon Sutter to the Vancouver Canucks, Rutherford obtained Nick Bonino, a center who has flourished with increased playing time. The 27-year-old had a breakout season with the Anaheim Ducks in 2013-14, scoring 22 goals and adding 27 assists in 77 games — all career highs.
He also was a key contributor on Anaheim’s power play, scoring seven times with the man advantage. Bonino totaled 11 goals — two on the power play — in 112 contests over his first four seasons in the league.
Bonino was the key piece of the package Anaheim sent to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler in June 2014. The native of Hartford, Connecticut performed well in his lone campaign with the Canucks, registering 15 goals and 39 points in 75 contests.
He proved to be a clutch goal scorer as well, with six of his tallies being game-winners, which placed him second on the team behind Radim Vrbata (seven). Continuing that trend will go a long way toward helping Crosby and company.
“I would imagine that I’d be in what I guess you could call a third-line center role right now,” Bonino told Penguins.com. “But at the end of the day, teams have four lines that need to be able to score in this league. So I’ll definitely be looking to contribute as best I can.”
In addition to the deal with the Canucks, which also brought defenseman Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh, Rutherford signed Eric Fehr to a three-year contract worth $6 million.
Selected 18th overall in the 2003 draft by Washington, Fehr is coming off a solid season with the Capitals in which he scored 19 goals and set up 14 others. The goal total was two shy of his career high set in 2009-10 during his first tour of duty in Washington.
Fehr spent the first six seasons of his NHL career in the nation’s capital before being traded to Winnipeg in July 2011. He missed a large portion of his lone season with the Jets due to shoulder surgery, recording two goals and one assist in 35 contests.
Despite being in his home province of Manitoba, the Winkler native elected to move on and re-sign with the Capitals. He notched 17 points in 41 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign before registering 31 and 33 over the last two seasons, respectively.
“I grew up in the Capitals system as a scoring winger and kind of morphed into a checking-line centerman,” Fehr told the team’s website. “I have the ability to play the wing and hopefully score some goals. I have the ability to play center and shut down other teams’ top lines. I’m going to be real interested to see how the coaching staff plans on using me, but I’m excited for a new opportunity.”
Like Bonino, Fehr also displayed a knack for scoring important goals, netting a career-high four game-winners last season. He may miss the beginning of his first campaign with the Penguins, however, as he still is recovering from offseason elbow surgery.
Make no mistake, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still are the ones who make the Penguins tick. But with the addition of players who are able to come through in the clutch, Crosby just may be on his way to that elusive second championship.