There should be a certain level of gloating from our Pittsburgh Penguins puckhead friends today, because outside of one hiccup at MSG this has been, by far, the best team in the postseason. Evgeni Malkin is on track for a Conn Smythe, even if mainstream celebrity will continue to elude him because his English is broken and his name has more vowels than "Sidney Crosby." (Unless you want to play the "and sometimes ‘Y'" game.) As fun as it's been to bash Marc-Andre Fleury as a postseason weak link, he's been better than just competent; although, in our heart, we know the Penguins would have somehow magically won the Stanley Cup already had they continued to believe in the stupefaction of the ConkBlock.
Then there's Marian Hossa, who scored the overtime game-winner to finish off the New York Rangers yesterday and has five goals and 10 points to silence the many critics of his previous postseason play. As good as he's been, it's still a bit premature to begin calling GM Ray Shero's deadline deal to bring Hossa to Pittsburgh an overwhelming success, as Nathan Fournier of The NHL Source clearly believes it can be labeled:
Fast forward to May 3rd, Marian Hossa had two goals including the game winner to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals. So far in the playoffs he has five goals and five assists. The deal is worth it because he's producing in the second season. This is the reason why they got Hossa.
It's an easy argument to make, especially when Hossa is winning games and helping to make the Penguins' power play into something so beautiful that it makes grown men weep like they're watching the end of "Field of Dreams." But the Hossa trade won't necessarily be judged by what happens on the ice.
On one level, the Hossa deal has been validated because the Penguins obviously have the grunts to overcome the losses of Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong to the Atlanta Thrashers. Then there's the fact that Angelo Esposito, the X-factor in the trade, lasted one game in his AHL audition with the Chicago Wolves. But there's still real danger for the Penguins if they decide to blow out their salary structure by signing Hossa this summer, whose asking price will only increase after his playoff heroics. This team has no less than eight cornerstone players under the age of 26; unless Hossa gives the Penguins a massive discount on his market value (not likely), it's not worth retaining him.
So the question for those who believe the Hossa trade has been validated: Is this still a successful trade if Hossa plays pedestrian hockey against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins fail to win the conference title and he skates away to, say, Montreal in the offseason?