Pens, Staal reach extension worth $16 million

| Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009

NASHVILLE -- He's wanted to "get it done" for a few months, and today was the day.

Center Jordan Staal has signed a four-year extension worth $16 million to stay with the Penguins. The deal was announced this morning by general manager Ray Shero, who made good on his plan to keep Staal, the youngest player in NHL history to appear in at least 200 games, in the fold at an affordable annual salary-cap hit ($4 million).

Staal, 20, said "there was no question (he) wanted to stay." He was set to become a restricted free agent July 1.

"It wasn't weighing on my mind too much," Staal said. "In my mind, I was comfortable where I was and happy to be a part of this team."

Staal will play the rest of this season under his entry-level deal; the extension kicks in next season. He will become an unrestricted free agent when the extension expires, the youngest in NHL history at 24, his agent Paul Krepelka said.

Shero, who made Staal his first draft pick (second overall) in 2006, said this deal is good for the Penguins because "(they) hope (Staal's) best hockey is ahead of him."

"The system right now is you're playing these young players on potential," Shero said. "He's a kid that's going to get better as his career moves forward."

Shero said the deal, which is of market value, came together in the past two weeks.

"Everyone is looking for good young players and he fits that criteria," Shero said. "It was always our intention to try and sign Jordan and this helps to give us some certainty moving forward."

Shero compared Staal's deal to the one signed by defenseman Ryan Whitney, who inked a six-year contract worth $24 million in July 2007 to avoid becoming a restricted free agent.

Start next season, the Penguins will have Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Whitney, defenseman Brooks Orpik and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury signed through 2012-13 at $34.15 million. The NHL salary cap this season is at $56.7 million, though it could decrease after next season due to decreased ticket sales in the current economic climate.

Staal, 20, has scored 11 goals and 21 points this season. He has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game, a career-best.

That average ice time proved to Staal that he would garner scoring-line forward minutes despite rating behind Crosby and Malkin on the depth chart - essentially assuring a deal with the Penguins could be reached.

"Jordan made no secret he wanted to remain a Penguin," Krepelka said. "The reason this didn't get done in the summer was he wanted to see where he fit. Now, Jordan has no complaints how he's being used. Once that became clear, that he would be used as more than just a No. 3 center, we wanted to get the deal done."

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