What do you mean, “The Pens have to trade Jordan Staal?”

I thought I was hallucinating, but I hadn’t been doing Jackhammers (Jack & Robitussin – my favorite Junior Year – use with caution), so I guess I’m awake when I’m hearing Jordan Staal trade talk on NHL Radio and reading lusty internet concoctions from fans of Canadian NHL teams on woman-free diets. My senses must not be deceiving me entirely.

This Jordan Staal trade babble comes on the heels of his excellent performance in the Eastern Quarterfinals against the Flyers. He was one of the few Penguins who both competed and produced for the duration of the series. He was also one of the few guys I did not want to scream at after watching the clusterfuck that was Game 3.

While the concept of dealing away an excellent player with still-untapped offensive upside is nauseating, the reality of a Salary Cap system is that you cannot keep everyone. When a team is already allocating over $17 million of a $64 million-dollar Cap (over one-fourth), employing someone like Jordan Staal at the same position perhaps becomes an unaffordable luxury.

My early sense from the snippets of and whispers about Staal’s next contract negotiation is this: Penguins’ GM Ray Shero is bracing himself for the possibility that he cannot re-sign Staal. Whether this is because of Cap-placement in the new CBA, indications from Sid Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson that Sid will want a raise, or indications from Staal’s camp that Jordan will not continue to accept the third spot on the Center depth chart, the inevitability is the same: Shero has to do his diligence and investigate Staal trade scenarios.

Assuming that a potential Jordan Staal trade is a real possibility and not just something a sexually-frustrated Leafs or Oilers fan dreamt up, here is additional logic behind it:

1) It has become public knowledge that Jordan has had enough of being the No. 3 Center. This tidbit came from Elliot Friedman, who is as intelligent and well-connected as any hockey insider:

“Friedman said Jordan Staal hasn’t asked the Penguins to be traded but wants more responsibility…”

This was on both his 30 Thoughts column (excellent, BTW) and Lyle “Spector” Richardson’s site, which is also reputable. This makes sense, because he’s clearly a player with 60-70 point upside getting 16-17 minutes per game and not being utilized to his full potential as primarily a checker/Penalty Killer. This ties in with the fact that…

2) Jordan Staal is one of the best 30 Centers in the League, which by definition makes him a #1 Center

Here are the Centers that NHL GMs would rather have on their top line than Jordan (true Centers only; no Patty Marleau/Hank Zetterberg-types):

Sid, Geno, Claude Giroux, Brad Richards, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Sedin, Eric Staal (for the moment), Stephen Weiss, Ryan Getzlaf (in theory), Joe Thornton (most GMs, anyway), Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Mikko Koivu, Jason Spezza

Here are the Centers that are more or less equal to Jordan, all things considered:

Ryan Kesler, John Tavares (for the moment, but rapidly improving), Patrice Bergeron, Travis Zajac (being very generous), Nicklas Backstrom (push), Jamie Benn, David Backes (push), Paul Stastny (extreme push), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who will be a true #1 very soon)

I am an NHL savant, and I only came up with 24 legitimate #1/Exceptional #2 Centers. That puts Staal in excellent company, and makes him a very valuable commodity. Many of the players on my list above are aging, and given Staal’s trajectory, he should be close to the middle of that group within a year or two.

Here are the teams that did not have a Center on either of my lists: Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Calgary (yes, Staal > Olli Jokinen at this point), Phoenix, Nashville, Columbus. Notice that four of those teams finished at or near the League’s basement, and all but two missed the post-season (excuse the outliers that are goaltender-centric Nashville and Phoenix).

The obvious takeaway point is this: if you want to succeed in the NHL, a #1 Center is extremely helpful, and probably a team’s top priority after an anchor Defenseman or a difference-making goaltender.

This alone is an excellent reason for the Penguins to continue to hoard their crop of Centermen. However, the reality is that playing a Top-6 (or even top-line) forward on your de facto third-line is not very efficient, and it may be time to sell high on Staal and re-distribute the return throughout the lineup. The bidding for Staal will be robust if he’s put up for auction.

3) The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is likely to feature a Salary Cap Ceiling reduction

The current Salary Cap Floor ($48.3 million) is higher than the Salary Cap Ceiling was in the first year after the Lockout. Small-market teams slash teams with tight-assed owners (Islanders, Panthers, etc.) are going to fight the Player’s Union for a Salary rollback or at least a recession of the Cap Ceiling and Floor. This could be up to $10 million skimmed off the Cap Ceiling, if the owners have their way.

Mario and Ron Burkle might be printing money over at Consol, but the Pens continually bump their heads against the Cap Ceiling; even a modest reduction of the upper-spending limit likely means lopping off a significant player or two.

The team will give Sid Crosby a blank check; knowing Sid, he will likely take another team-friendly contract to help keep the Core group together. But even if both Sid and Jordan leave money on the table, signing Staal might mean losing Geno in July 2014…and you know my thoughts on that.

I will now break into Consol, impersonate Shero, and trade Paul Martin to Minnesota or New Jersey for a mid-level prospect to undo this sick world where we’re talking about a Jordan Staal trade. Who’s with me?

Should the Pens trade Staal?

I am adamently against trading home-grown future All-Stars on principle, but let’s be real: this is a one-in-a-lifetime predicament. What’s insane would be trading one of the Best Two Players in the World, because the team would get sixty-cents-on-the-dollar no matter what the return would be. I have long stated that I would trade anyone on the roster to keep Sid and Geno in the fold, including (vomit in mouth) Staal.

Going back a generation, would you have traded Mario or Jagr to keep Ron Francis? Well, yes, hindsight being what it is, you would trade Jagr for anything but Kris Beech and Michael Sivek and sign Francis to a 10-year deal. Thankfully, Geno is Jagr only in skill and not in estrogenic hormonal disposition, so today’s team should opt to keep the two Superstars at the expense of the presumptive All-Star if that is the sacrifice that has to be made.

I am optimistic that Staal just loves being in the organization and takes below market-value to stay, with the promise that he will get 20-minutes a night, Power Play time galore, and a permanent spot with Sid and/or Geno. But if he’s insistent on testing the UFA market next year, or if Showtime Shero’s insight into the new CBA is going to prevent the team from re-signing him, the team would be trading him at a relative peak in value.

In short: Like the team, I want him in Pittsburgh. If that’s impossible, I’m willing to drink a pint glass full of Grand Marnier (or as Craig Patrick calls it, “Breakfast”) and consider the options.

(Notice the rosy cheeks and sloppy grin consistent with someone who has snuck a flask into both a church and a courthouse)

What is the appropriate return for Staal?

Start with the Jeff Carter-to-Columbus return: young roster player and top-ten draft pick. That somewhat narrows the field.

What should the Pens target as a return for Staal?

I’ve written elsewhere that it’s time the team considered putting a true “checking line” behind Sid and Geno to shut down the Girouxs and Kovalchuks of the world. You can be the Best Player in the World, but your production will be limited if you have 190-lbs of Sean Couturier, Braden Schenn, and/or Max Talbot swinging from your sack at all times.

While the team’s current model of wearing down opposing defenders with the Forecheck is quite effective, we all saw what happens when elite forwards are left to run roughshod shift-after-shift. More troubling is that the responsibility of “checking” someone like Claude Giroux falls onto Sid’ s shoulders, which is beyond counterproductive.Part of the reason Claude Giroux lit up Pittsburgh was that he was entirely free to concentrate on offense; meanwhile, Sid especially was continuously shackled to not just responsible two-way play, but also driven into the ground by trying to keep tabs on Giroux in the Defensive Zone.

Regardless of what happens with Staal, I am all for getting a true third-line Center in the John Madden/Sammy Pahlsson/Todd Marchant mold, whose sole responsibility is punching Marian Gaborik and the like below the belt, thus giving Sid and Geno (and Staal on Sid’s line?) complete freedom to produce goals.

If the Pens opt to move Staal, I see the team targeting a potential top-line forward ala Sean Couturier via draft pick, as well as a forward with upside who could immediately go into the lineup ala Wayne Simmonds/Jake Voracek. Having said that, if a team’s best prospect is an elite defenseman, you can never have enough of those.

One thing I do not see the team trading Staal for a higher-salaried veteran such as Rick Nash or Patrick Marleau; that’s a lateral move at best, given the Cap crunch it would put on the rest of the lineup. The upshot of a Staal trade is the chance to reload a bit, much like Philadelphia did in their Carter-Richards pillagings. I am not dismissing the possibility, but I would rather Showtime re-up and bet on Staal’s continued offensive development than add significant salary to the Forward position.

(Note: The trades for Carter and Richards obviously worked out for Western Conference Finalist Los Angeles, but fuck did Philly get a haul for those two.)

Specifically, what potential trades do you see happening?

If a deal were to happen at the 2012 Draft, in no order of likelihood, here is what I pray/suspect Showtime would insist upon:

Toronto: Defenseman Jake Gardiner and the #5 Overall Pick

Montreal: Max Pacioretty and the #3 Overall Pick (very unlikely, but that’s what Showtime should insist on)

Columbus: Staal and Paul Martin for Rick Nash, the #2 Overall Pick, defenseman Fedor Tyutin, and some prospect with upside (only if the team is able to shed Martin’s salary in a Nash deal, and only if the team deems Simon Despres ready to take Martin’s minutes)

Edmonton: Center Sam Gagner and the #1 Overall Pick (hell, if I was Shero I’d ask for Jordan Eberle)

Minnesota: Winger prospect Charlie Coyle and the #7 Overall Pick, plus a sweetener

Anaheim: Winger Bobby Ryan and a swap of first-round draft picks (it’s my blog, I can ask for whatever I want)

San Jose: Staal and our first-round pick for Winger/Center Logan Couture (in other words, not happening)

Florida: Florida’s mid-first round pick, a roster player, and Center prospect Jonathan Huberdeau

Carolina: Carolina’s first-round pick (#8 Overall), Center prospect Zac Dalpe, and one of Defenseman Ryan Murphy or Defenseman Justin Faulk (you wanna “catch all the Staals?”, Jim Rutherford? You’re going to pay out the nose)

Ottawa: Center prospect Mika Zibenajad and Defenseman Jared Cowan

Chicago: (this would be drastic) Anything we want from their team…some comination of winger prospect Jeremy Morin, defenseman Nick Leddy, and defenseman Brandon Saad, plus picks.

If traded, where is Staal absolutely not going?

Within the Atlantic Division, and if possible out of the Eastern Conference. Shero prefers to send former players as far away as possible (Ryan Whitney to Anaheim, Alex Goligoski to Dallas, etc.)

Rule out teams that are both relatively cash-poor and light on prospects (Tampa, Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas, Winnipeg, etc). There are teams with obvious holes at Center (Buffalo, Chicago, Columbus, etc.) who probably lack the goods necessary to make a deal. Also throw out teams with adequate depth at Center (San Jose, Los Angeles, St. Louis, etc).


There is a 90% chance Staal trade-talk is just internet bluster, and the opportunity for Canada to get moist at the prospect of bringing a good Canadian lad from Thunder Bay back to the land of “real hockey”. Ray Shero is sky-high on Staal, and hopefully believes that Staal is an essential part of the solution than rather than part of the reasons the Pens took such as cock-slapping from Philadelphia in the 2012 playoffs.

Having said all of this, no one reading this (except you, Mario) knows what is happening behind-the-scenes. If Jordan Staal has made it known that he wants #1 Center money, or wants to go somewhere to be a #1 Center, it may be time for the team to have the hard discussion and consider making the best of a bad situation.

When Shero drafted Staal in 2006, pundits everywhere wondered how he was going to slot in behind Sid and Geno. That culminated with a Cup in 2009, so score one for Shero selecting the player he liked best irrespective of position. In 2012, it may be time for Staal to leave the nest (so to speak), be someone else’s Bull-In-a-China-Shop, and remind everyone that he’s a former #2 Overall Pick. One last time: smart people reading this want him in Pittsburgh, but it just may not be in the cards.

About sfarrell11000
All over the place

11 Responses to What do you mean, “The Pens have to trade Jordan Staal?”

  1. Mac says:

    Quality read!

  2. labo says:

    I suggest Staal + Kunitz for Rick Nash. Kunitz’s playoff performance was abysmal, I think he’s washed up on age and injury history for his salary.

    • Ray Shero will never make that trade. I think the team would possibly explore a Nash-for-Staal trade if there was not an option that was more appealing to Pittsburgh (young roster player + high draft pick) and it was clear that re-signing Staal would be an impossibility, but Shero and the coaching staff believe the team generates more than enough goals.

      NHL managers think in terms of Goal Scoring and Goal Prevention, both of which can be accomplished in any number of ways. If you have an elite goaltender who stops 93% of the shots he sees, having outstanding defensemen becomes less of an issue. The inverse is true is you have difference-making defensemen – the goaltender becomes less critical (i.e. the traditional Detroit Red Wings model).

      Goal Prevention is the reason the Pens’ got bounced in 2012. Any trade for Staal will be with that concept in mind, meaning defensively-capable forwards or an oustanding defensive prospect will be the request return for Staal. Philadelphia’s respective deals for Jeff Carter (Voracek + #8 overall pick) and Mike Richards (Simmonds and Braden Schenn) will serve as the template for a Staal deal if he’s dealt.

      I am quite sure Shero is not interested in adding Cap money at the forward position. Rick Nash makes $7.8 million against the Cap; while your Cap math adds up (Kuni at $3.725 and Staal at $4 million), the team also has to replace Kunitz as a top-6 forward, which adds more salary to the forward corps while reducing depth even further. Kuni has proven to be an excellent value as a complimentary winger for either Sid or Geno; I think Shero thinks he’s a great value at his current salary, and would be disinclined to move him.

      If Staal is moved for a forward, it will be someone in a comparable salary slot to what he currently makes (meaning $3-$5 million range). I can guarantee if Shero was going to move Staal for a big-money forward, he would target Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan ($5.4 million against the Cap for the next four years). Ryan is a former #2 overall pick (behind Sid), an American (which Shero loves), and locked in at a reasonable salary at a position of need (elite winger for Sid).


  3. Ben Desjardins says:

    Toronto: Defenseman Jake Gardiner and the #5 Overall Pick.

    Montreal: Max Pacioretty and the #3 Overall Pick (very unlikely, but that’s what Showtime should insist on).

    Columbus: Staal and Paul Martin for Rick Nash, the #2 Overall Pick, defenseman Fedor Tyutin, and some prospect with upside (only if the team is able to shed Martin’s salary in a Nash deal, and only if the team deems Simon Despres ready to take Martin’s minutes)

    Edmonton: Center Sam Gagner and the #1 Overall Pick (hell, if I was Shero I’d ask for Jordan Eberle)

    Minnesota: Winger prospect Charlie Coyle and the #7 Overall Pick, plus a sweetener

    Anaheim: Winger Bobby Ryan and a swap of first-round draft picks (it’s my blog, I can ask for whatever I want)

    San Jose: Staal and our first-round pick for Winger/Center Logan Couture (in other words, not happening)

    Florida: Florida’s mid-first round pick, a roster player, and Center prospect Jonathan Huberdeau

    Carolina: Carolina’s first-round pick (#8 Overall), Center prospect Zac Dalpe, and one of Defenseman Ryan Murphy or Defenseman Justin Faulk (you wanna “catch all the Staals?”, Jim Rutherford? You’re going to pay out the nose)

    Ottawa: Center prospect Mika Zibenajad and Defenseman Jared Cowan

    Chicago: (this would be drastic) Anything we want from their team…some comination of winger prospect Jeremy Morin, defenseman Nick Leddy, and defenseman Brandon Saad, plus picks.

  4. Ben obviously follows the NHL closely, and he’s right – the draft gets extremely murky after the #1 overall pick, who everyone with a brain will concede is Nail Yakupov. Yakupov is currently drawing Pavel Bure comparisons, for anyone interested.

    After Yakupov, I personally like defenseman Ryan Murray out of Everett, but even NHL scouts cannot seem to come to a consensus on the board after Yakupov. You can read the final rankings from Central Scouting here:


    While Ben went through and assessed my trade proposals, I wrote them all under the assumption that Staal has to be traded, and then tried to think of what Ray Shero would ask for if he was trading with a particular team.

    For example, I don’t believe Shero would ask for Nazim Kadri from Toronto, because he’s a natural Center on the second year of his entry-level deal. He’s also a Top-6-type player, which does not alleviate the main problem with re-signing Staal (being forced to play three Top-6 forward on separate lines). Ditto for Toronto’s second-best forward prospect, Joe Colborne.

    Shero, I believe, would ask for Jake Gardiner because he’s an American, puck-moving defenseman. Shero loves those. Gardiner is also a highly-regarded young player, and the best young roster player Toronto could offer in a Staal auction.

    On the other hand, the Pens likely aren’t dealing Staal to Edmonton because there is not a desirable young roster player to pair with the #1 overall pick (which alone won’t get Staal). I threw out the name Sam Gagner because Edmonton is not dealing Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, et al, and the return for Staal should be a young roster player + high draft pick given the precedent set the Carter and Richards deals.

    This was my line of thinking in all of the “trade” scenarios: if Staal were to be traded, what would Shero be most apt to ask for, given that he would not want to take back much money in Cap salary, that the team is not looking for another Top-6 Centerman, that the team presumably has wingers for Geno in Kuni and Neal, and that if given the choice Shero has an affection for players he’s familiar with (either through U.S. development or from his days in Nashville) and a preference to deal with GMs he knows (Bob Murray, Brian Burke, David Poile, etc).

    I threw out a list of sample deals to open discussion, and I encourage you to read Ben’s response; his points are intelligent. I repeat, I am against trading Staal because he likes being here and the team still does not know his developmental ceiling, but the trade that makes sense on all fronts to me is Staal to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan. Sid gets a power-type wing, Shero gets salary control, Shero has a history of dealing with Bob Murray, Anaheim gets a legitimate 2nd line center, and Staal is out in Anaheim as far away as possible.


  5. Calem says:

    I don’t wanna see Staal go, but if he does, the best choice would be Staal (and maybe throw martin in) for Bobby Ryan, (and maybe Ron Pelley) and a swap of first round picks. Pittsburgh could get a checking forward, a winger Sidney Crosby would drool over, and a high prospect. Simon Despres is ready to take on the NHL. Paul Martin is supposed to be a shutdown defenseman, look how many goals were scored in that Philadelphia series. I’ve seen Despres, and he can shutdown those big guns, Shero and Bylsma just didn’t want to put him in there because there was too much “depth” (Martin, Michalek, Letang, Orpik) but with Martin gone, Despres can make the cut. Also, maybe Shero can rest and let teams offer for Matt Niskanen. Yes, he’s pretty good, but without him, we could clear up even more cap space. We would have about 2 million from the Staal-Ryan trade, we could gain another million and a half letting him go. Also, If Pittsburgh and Anaheim switch picks, Pittsburgh could gain Matt Dumba, a very skilled defenseman.

    • The Staal-for-Ryan scenario is probably the most-favorable for Pittsburgh if Ray Shero has to trade Jordan Staal. The issue I see is Relative Value: both teams think they are trading the better player, which is going to make the ancillary details of the trade hard to negotiate.

      For example, maybe Anaheim looks at Ryan’s 50-goal potential and insists on Pittsburgh including Tyler Kennedy as well as Staal with no swap of draft picks. Does the deal look as tempting now?

      I think Staal and Ryan are absolutely equal in the marketplace; while Ryan is obviously the better scorer, Staal is the more complete player and plays a more-desirable position. It’s much harder to find a big Centerman needed to compete with the likes of Joe Thornton, Anze Kopitar, Martin Hanzal, etc. in the Western Conference than it is find a goal-scoring winger (however talented). Both players are former #2 overall draft picks.

      As a Pens’ fan, would I like to get my hands on the Ducks’ Top-5 Pick in this year’s draft? Absolutely. But if I’m Anaheim, do I think it’s a fair deal to give away my coveted franchise power forward plus the Top-5 Pick? I’m not so sure.

      Complicating matters is the fact that at this point, Ryan Getzlaf may be the more likely of the two to be moved. I think Anaheim would in fact prefer to move Getzlaf given his age and dip in production, but cannot because of the aforementioned need for Centers in the brutal Western Conference. While this need makes Staal more attractive to Anaheim, the team may not have the desire to move Ryan if they can move Getzlaf for a good return.

      Lastly, Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com floated a scenario last week in which the Pens dealt Staal to the Blackhawks for a package built around center Dave Bolland (http://espn.go.com/blog/chicagoblackhawks/post/_/id/4671107/hawks-could-improve-by-dealing-bolland).

      While I am not in favor of dealing Staal for a grab-bag, I do think Rogers makes valid points: mainly, that Dave Bolland is a true third-line center (which the Penguins need) and Staal is a true Top-6 center (which the Blackhawks need). The trade gets Staal out of the Eastern Conference (which Shero and the Pens would want), and helps the team re-load with at least two less-expensive NHL roster players. Rogers suggests Bolland and Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad, who I mentioned in my original post; that alone doesn’t get the deal done, but if Chicago is ready to send over Saad, another NHL-ready young player, Bolland, and their first-round draft pick, I think that’s a reasonable haul. It might not be Staal-for-Ryan, but it does look like the bones of a real NHL trade.


  6. Ivar says:

    Ryan for Staal could be intresting, but the Pens need a solid 2 way forward. Dont know much about Loui Eriksson’s defensive abilities but he could be an option. I also like the Mika Z deal with Ottawa. As for Martin, maybe back to New Jersey along with Dupuis for Volchenkov. Maybe even swap Niskanen in for Martin. In Colorado, Staal for Stasny or Landeskog plus a first rounder and a second rounder or a first rounder in 2013.

    • 1) The Loui Eriksson idea is interesting, except I don’t believe the Stars would be willing to deal him even for Jordan Staal. Eriksson is an outstanding player and currently has four years remaining on a deal that pays him a very-reasonable $4 million, which makes me think the Stars would be very reluctant to trade him. Still, the lure of a big centerman like Staal might make the deal interesting on Dallas’ end.

      2) Anton Volchenkov-for-Paul Martin is a possibility. I don’t see the Pens moving Pascal Dupuis under any normal circumstances, but there’s an outside possibility that Lou Lamoriello is interested in re-acquiring Martin and shedding himself of A-Train’s contract. Be warned: Volchenkov has four years remaining on his deal, and plays the sort of fearless game that wears tread off the tires very rapidly. He looked porous in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and it’s hard to say if he would represent an upgrade for the Penguins in lieu of Martin.

      3) Staal-for-Stastny/Landeskog is not happening. Paul Stastny makes $6.6 against the Cap as a play-making center; the Penguins are not adding that contract. Colorado is not trading Landeskog under any circumstances.


  7. Pingback: Why Penguins’ Fans Should Love the Tomas Vokoun Trade « jack_has_spoken

  8. Pingback: What do you mean, “The Pens traded Jordan Staal??!!??” « jack_has_spoken

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 233 other followers

%d bloggers like this: