Lacing Up is a weekly column taken from an email conversation between Ashley Gallant and CJ. “Stoosh” Jiuliante. Stoosh is a former Faceoff Factor staff writer and a long-time hockey fan.

It’s time for the trading deadline, and FF’s Mike Wilson and Zach Boslett are here to talk about it.

Ash: The trading deadline is on the horizon and GMs are starting to make their moves.

The Montreal Canadiens have acquired Mathieu Schneider from Atlanta and are hoping that he can fill a void on the blueline and keep the team in the top eight.

The Ottawa Senators, who are supposedly in the “John Tavares Sweepstakes”, have made a move to bring back Mike Comrie and add Chris Campoli, dealing away Dean McAmmond and a first rounder. Bryan Murray has even said that almost everyone on his roster is up for discussion.

Some teams are looking to buy that last piece of the puzzle that will put them over the top, while others are ready to sell everyone to the highest bidder.

What are your thoughts on this year’s list of rentals? Who is the big fish in the trading pond? Who will be looking to add this season’s Marian Hossa?

And what will Ray Shero be this year: a buyer or a seller?

Zach: Ahhh the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa GM Bryan Murray’s recent trade of Dean McAmmond and a late first round pick to the Islanders for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli reaks of Murray attempting to save his job by making an improbably run at the playoffs. According to James Mirtle’s baseline of 90 points for a playoff berth, they would need to go 19-5-0 to make the playoffs. Not going to happen.

Bryan Murray made the New York Islanders look like the Detroit Red Wings in this deal. Comrie and McAmmond are both unrestricted free agents so really this deal breaks down to Chris Campoli for a late first round pick. Highway robbery by the Islanders.

This year’s list of rentals includes just one big time player possibly moving to another destination. That player is Jay Bouwmeester. He is by far the best player available at the deadline and the only player able to bring in a Marian Hossa type haul this year. The biggest question is whether he is actually going to be moved or not.

In the Hossa situation, Atlanta and the rest of the NHL knew he was leaving at the end of the season and would be traded at the deadline. This was assumed to be the case with Bouwmeester as well. But a sure-fire Jack Adams nominee Pete DeBoer has the Florida Panthers playing the best hockey in the NHL since the start of the new year. This has thrown a wrench into Panthers GM Jacques Martin’s plans to move him at the deadline for a fortune. So what should he do with Bouwmeester? Who knows.

Some rumored destinations for Bouwmeester if they choose to move him could be Philadelphia (If they can move Briere’s contract), Chicago (I don’t see this one happening unless they move some salary as well), Edmonton (too far out of playoffs for a rental), New York Rangers (once again too many awful contracts to make a move like this unless it is dumping major salary), and New Jersey (interesting but they don’t want to break the bank for a UFA).

I believe Ray Shero will be active at the deadline but not in a way that will please most Penguin fans. I see him dumping Hal Gill, Miroslav Satan (if he can), Ruslan Fedotenko, Rob Scuderi, Petr Sykora, and Mathieu Garon to contenders for young prospects and picks. I would like to see them resign Fedotenko, Sykora, and Scuderi but flipping them for prospects might be what is best for the team in the long run. I’m not saying to throw in the towel but if the Penguins have not made up any ground by March 4th, Gill and Satan should be traded.

One possible deadline or offseason deal would be Whitney to Anaheim for Kunitz as Matt Bodenschatz has suggested. Anaheim only has Chris Pronger, Brendan Mikkelson, Sheldon Brookbank signed through next season on defense. Niedermayer, Hedican, Montador, Beauchemin, and Huskins are all leaving this season. Sounds like a good trade partner don’t you think?

Another good trade partner for the Penguins could be Chicago. Five of Chicago’s top ten prospects are top flight wing prospects. Players such as Kyle Beach, Troy Brouwer, and Jack Skille are top power forward prospects and Skille especially could be had for a rather cheap price. He has fallen out of favor in Chicago and should be number 1 on Shero’s list.

Mike: I’m going to cut straight to Bouwmeester because Zach hit the nail right on the head about Ottawa. Things have changed in Sunrise, Fla. Martin would benefit greatly if he kept the veteran blue-liner on his team. I think it would also be a testament to Bouwmeester. He’s been with the organization through the hard times and if they make the playoffs, he should be right out there with them with his head held high.

I’ve heard a lot of talk regarding Bouwmeester coming to Pittsburgh for guys like Whitney or Letang or Goligoski and a prospect. Truth is, the Panthers have a very young team and adding another young whipper snapper like the youth of the Pens’ blue line won’t be much help to them.

But I agree with Zach in the fact that if Bouwmeester is traded, there’s no doubt that his will be a landmark deal of the season.

As for Shero, I know he’s looking for a million ways to get rid of Satan (aka, the biggest bust in recent Penguins’ memory). I would like to see him hold on to guys like Scuderi, Fedotenko, and Sykora. However, I know Shero will need to get rid of someone he doesn’t want to if he wants to get a grade-A winger for Sidney Crosby, which is going to be hard enough as is due to the lack of selections.

I’d love to see Gill and Whitney go and see either Bouwmeester or, as Zach noted, Kunitz come to Pittsburgh. But that’s thinking very idealistically.

As for Chicago, I think Shero would only want to use those possibilities as last resorts. I think he still wants a shot at some of the big fish first before he starts thinking about prospects.

Ash: Ouch, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that Miro Satan is the biggest bust in recent Pens’ memory. I’m not going to say that he was/is a suitable winger for Crosby, but I don’t think signing him was that bad. A salary of $3.5M for one year isn’t bad to absorb if it was a failed experiment (which it was), and there was always the upside of things working out and him becoming a Sykora. If Shero had signed him to a Briere-like contract (money and term), THEN I would classify it was a disaster.

I think Shero will be somewhat active at the deadline, but I don’t think he will be as active as last year nor do I think that he will go into full selling mode (à la Toronto). I would not be surprised to see one of our top young defensemen (and yes, I include Ryan Whitney on that list, despite what others may think) go to a team for a legitimate top-6 winger, but that winger will have to be under contract for several seasons to avoid a repeat of the Hossa saga. How about Whitney and some prospects/picks to Ottawa for Heatley? One can only dream of such an unlikely trade…if any one of those top 3 guys is leaving Ottawa, it’s going to be Spezza.

Sykora needs to stay in Pittsburgh and re-signed, period. Whether a new contract comes now or in the off-season, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that he stays in a black and gold uniform and plays with Malkin.

On to Florida…

You guys are right in that Jacques Martin should keep Bouwmeester around until the end of the season because they are finally playing some consistent, great hockey for their fans and trading Bouwmeester would put all of that into jeopardy….

However, if Bouwmeester doesn’t want to re-sign with Florida, then he should be traded. Even if the Panthers made the playoffs, their chance of making it to the Conference Finals, let alone the Stanley Cup Finals, are slim to none. I don’t think it’s worth keeping Bouwmeester around and get booted in the first round, only to lose him to free agency. Buffalo fans can tell you all about that.

As for possible destinations for Bouwmeester….I’ll say Boston.

What do you guys think of the rumours that Chris Pronger could be traded by the deadline?

Zach: The Chris Pronger situation just got a bit clearer don’t you think? With Penguins defensemen Ryan Whitney now a Duck that means 1 of 2 things:

A: Scott Niedermayer has informed the Ducks that he plans to retire at the end of this season.
B: Chris Pronger is going to be traded at the deadline or in the summer.

The Ducks are hoping that Ryan Whitney can be their new franchise defensemen and I wish Whitney the best. He could learn a lot from Pronger, Niedermayer, and head coach Randy Carlyle about the defensive aspect of the game and become at least competent in his own end. He will need a defensive defensemen to cover for him until then.

I guess Matt was correct about Anaheim and more specifically Kunitz being a good trading partner for the Penguins. I love Kunitz in this deal because he is hard working, tough, unafraid of contact, and fast. He also has finishing skill. He will be a great fit on Crosby’s wing.

But equally important in this trade is prospect Eric Tangradi. At 6’ 4” and 225 pounds, he is a pure power forward. He was the Ducks top prospect and he is now the Penguins top prospect narrowly edging out Luca Caputi. Tangradi is a tough, North and South player who does not shy away from contact but actually initiates it.

In an interview on the day of the trade with 105.9 The X’s Tim Benz, Tangradi said that he is not a finesse player. He prefers grinding it out in the corner and and taking the puck to the net.

Tangradi was a second round pick by the Ducks in 2007 and has blossomed into a top flight prospect. Penguins GM Ray Shero wanted to draft Tangradi that year but the Ducks had already taken him when the Penguins turn rolled around.

He is currently having a monster season with Belleville Bulls scoring 38 G and 49 A for 87 points. That is good for 2nd in the OHL. 2 points behind some guy named John Tavares who I hear is pretty good.

How do these lines sound several years down the line?
Tangradi – Crosby – Caputi
Zabotel – Malkin – Moon

Crazy combination of size and skill with enough toughness. If Tangradi reaches his potential this is a major win for the Penguins.

Ash: I’m a lookin’, and I’m a likin’.

Those line combinations sound pretty good, if everything pans out in the not-so-distant future.

I hope that Ryan Whitney does well in Anaheim because it wasn’t looking good in Pittsburgh. But if we meet him in the Cup Final…I hope he reverts to his -15 ways. Just kidding…sort of.

Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi are excellent pick-ups by Shero because of their ability to score (time will tell if Tangradi can translate OHL success into NHL success) and their gritty game. The Penguins need people who are willing to fight for the puck on the ice, not shy away from all contact.

Kunitz is not the same kind of player as Hossa, but I am hoping that he will be able to click with Crosby and have the same basic impact on the ice.

As for Chris Pronger, he is pretty much gone unless Scott Niedermayer decides to retire. The Ducks cannot afford to keep Pronger on the roster if Niedermayer comes back for another tour of duty. I’m not sure how willing they’ll be to trade Pronger while they’re still very much in the race for the playoffs, but stranger things have happened.

Stoosh: Now merely a few days away from the deadline, things should really start heating up over the next 48-72 hours or so, but a quick comment on a deal already made.

As Pens fans go, I’d have to say they should like what they’ve seen of Chris Kunitz after the first game. A goal and an assist, and he brought a physical presence on the boards and in front of the net that we haven’t seen since Ryan Malone last year. Seemed to click well with Staal and Kennedy while Crosby rested up for one more game.

I’ll be interested to what Shero does going forward. He spoke at length with Mark Madden Friday afternoon on 105.9 “The X”, and seemed to suggest that they’re not done. He mentioned some concerns with trying to free up cap space while also trying to restock some depth in the system that was lost at last year’s deadline. To that end he spoke very highly of Eric Tangradi, so much so that he mentioned that in less than 24 hours after acquiring him, he’d already fielded several calls inquiring about Tangradi’s availability. He emphatically stated that he has no interest whatsoever in moving Tangradi.

Shero also said he would not be dealing any of his younger assets for rental player, so I suppose we can automatically dispense of any “Staal for Antropov/Staal for Tkachuk” talk.

That said, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Staal is dealt sometime between now and Wednesday IF the right deal presents itself. I don’t think it’s any secret that the Pens are still in the market for that bluechip top-six winger – particularly someone to play on the top line with Crosby. Their most marketable asset to acquire that player is Staal, although such a deal may be more likely at the draft. So we’ll see what happens.

As far as Pronger goes, it’s going to be an interesting situation out there. Anaheim seems to be enterting a bit of a transition period with many of the veteran players who were so instrumental in their Cup run a couple of years ago.

I tend to not believe the rumors that Philly is a destination for Pronger. Philly could certainly use a goaltending or defensive upgrade, but it’s ironic – and a bit funny to me – that they may have to dump players and risk breaking up that chemistry they’ve established to bring back a player in Briere who really doesn’t fit their system. But like we’re seeing in New York with the Rangers, this is what happens when organizations tie franchise-caliber money into unrestricted free agents. They risk albatross deals like those handed out to Briere, Gomez or even Drury.