It's one of the comments you'll most likely hear after a game: "The Penguins should trade Jordan Staal." He's undoubtably the one Penguin with the most trade rumours swirling around him. Looking at papers and blogs and message boards, it seems to be a pretty popular opinion - no one is showing any love for the boy from Thunder Bay. People have wanted him off of this team since day one. Jordan Staal was drafted in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft with the second overall pick and as soon as he was chosen people were already criticizing him.
But when Jordan took to the ice he started to shut some people up. He was the youngest player to ever score two shorthanded goals in one game. He was also the youngest to score on a penalty shot and the youngest to score a hat trick. And he kept scoring. He ended his rookie season with 29 goals, 42 points and seven shorthanded goals - a rookie record. He was nominated for the Calder trophy, but lost out to teammate Evgeni Malkin. It seemed certain that Jordan would be a star.
And then he started to struggle. Entering his second season he fell into what many would call a "sophmore slump." His goal total dropped to 12 on the season and he spent most of the year centering the team's third line. And it hasn't gotten much better this year. Going into tomorrow night's game against Edmonton Staal only has one goal and three assists. And the goal was an empty netter. And so the calls for a trade have grown once again. Even mainstream news outlets are discussing it now. Dave Molinari at the Post-Gazette answered this same question just yesterday.
People want Staal gone.
And the case for trading him is convincing. First of all, his production dropped drastically last year and, although it's early, he doesn't seem to be on track this year either. Secondly, he's a center. So is Sidney Crosby. And Evgeni Malkin. And, while we're at it, so is Max Talbot and Tyler Kennedy and Mike Zigomanis. That's seven centers for four lines and that brings us to another point; Staal was moved to left wing alongside Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora this year and it didn't pay off. He plays his best hockey at center and, on this team, that means you're on the third line at best (unless Therrien decides to put Crosby and Malkin together again.)
So we have a poorly producing center on a team filled with centers. It seems like those who want him moved are right, doesn't it?
They're not for one major reason. Jordan Staal turned 20 less than two months ago. Even if he was invited to a bachelor party in the US today, he will STILL be unable to drink legally. He's still the youngest regular player on this team. Is he Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin? No, and he probably never will be. But defensively he's good at worst and outstanding at best. There aren't too many guys on this team that you can say that about.
So while the Pens may be able to get a winger or two if they move Staal, I'd suggest they don't. His poor play recently may even allow them to sign him at a discount. And that brings me to the final reason people want Staal traded: his potential salary. The Penguins don't exactly have money to throw around and, even if they did, they don't have the cap space to throw it. It's going to be difficult to keep Staal under conrtact unless he follows Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Orpik and takes a bit of a pay cut.
I think that's exactly what he will do. At this point in time Jordan Staal has one very good NHL season and his potential to use as bargaining chips. I doubt he's a stupid man. After last season. he didn't want to negotiate a new conrtact because he felt he had a poor year. If he has enough subpar year he's smart enough to know that he won't be making superstar money on his next contract. And that's one more reason the Penguins should re-sign him. In three years they could look back at the contract he signed this coming summer and see how they got a great deal on a potential Selke trophy winner. At worst they could see how they spent a reasonably small amount on a player with a lot of undeveloped potential.
The players they could get for Staal would likely end up making more money next season than Staal would so, even if you're looking at this from a purely monetary viewpoint, it doesn't make sense to trade Jordan Staal.
Of course things could change. Staal could start racking up the points and demand six million dollars next year. If that's the case, I hope Tampa Bay still has cap space. But at this point in time I think it would be ridiculous to think about trading Jordan Staal.
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