Each year as the trade deadline approaches, the questions are the same. Will Pittsburgh penguins general manager Ray Shero be active? Is he looking for a “big name” addition or a minor tweak to his roster?

This year is no different, except that these questions have come earlier and with more vigor due to the circumstances surrounding the team’s top players.

With Evgeni Malkin out for the season as he recovers from major knee surgery, with Sidney Crosby sidelined indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome, and with numerous other important players injured or suspended, the Penguins have been reduced to a bare-bones roster that has as many minor leaguers (six) as regular NHL players.

Most of the injured players are expected to return soon, but Crosby’s timetable is far from certain, leaving many to speculate whether it would be wise for Shero to make a deadline splash to bolster a roster that could be without its top two players for the rest of the season.

Shero seems to think so.

“I have an idea of what I want to do and what price I might want to pay — and not overpay, obviously,” Shero said Wednesday in an interview with Dave Monilari of the Post-Gazette.

“I have a decent idea [of who might be available] from talking to a number of the teams. For some teams, it’s still a little early to decide if they’re going to make a move with somebody “

What he must decide is whether it’s in the team’s best interest to acquire a short-term asset, or playoff rental, such as Alexei Kovalev or Jason Arnott or a long-term asset, or a player signed beyond this season, such as Stephen Weiss or Jakub Voracek.

“Everything you do, you have to keep in mind how that’s going to affect us moving forward,” Shero said.

As we inch closer to the February 28 trade deadline, we’ll continue to see increased rumors speculating that such and such a player is heading to Pittsburgh.

At Faceoff-Factor, we’ll try to sort through the muck and bring you what we consider to be substantiated reports of players who are likely to come to town.