Kovacevic: Penguins wise to wait on Staal
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Updated: Friday, May 18, 2012
Puckheads from Halifax to Hollywood are trying to predict which of the Penguins' Big Three — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and especially Jordan Staal — will get traded this summer, where they'll go, what they'll reap and, of course, how this affects the Leafs.
“All right, let's go out to the hot line and Gord in Guelph! You're on with ‘Gord & Gord!' ”
“Hey, Gords. First time, long time. What do you say to Colby Armstrong, Mike Komisarek, Tie Domi, Mats Sundin and a fifth-rounder for Staal? Package deal! I'll hang up and listen.”
Sanity hardly reigns.
Based on recent talks of my own, here are 11 semi-sane, south-of-the-border observations on the topic:
• Crosby and Malkin are staying.
No rational discussion can be had here without dispelling any myths about those two. The Penguins have the best players in the world — with apologies to a couple unchecked weeks of Claude Giroux — and they'll keep them. As they should. Blows my mind that anyone thinks otherwise.
• That leaves No. 11.
The Penguins have made no hard decision to move Staal. Not privately, either.
If that time comes, Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma will meet with ownership to talk it over. There's been no come-to-Mario moment yet.
• The Penguins can afford all three. Really.
They're profitable at Consol Energy Center and always will be able to spend up to the NHL's salary cap. The question they'll need to deliberate, with Staal eligible for free agency next summer, is whether it's wise to pay half of a $60 million-plus payroll to three centermen.
I don't envy Shero. Any GM with a Crosby/Malkin roster must contend every year, but Shero can't ignore the long-term financial ledger. If he ever does, the roster will be filled out with AHL All-Stars.
• No matter how labor talks play out this summer, the cap is a lock to survive. But the new head of the players' union is Donald Fehr, the man who shrunk Major League Baseball into the Original Six of big spenders. He'll want to change something.
If the cap goes way up — some see $70 million as possible, a 10 percent increase — the Penguins keeping all three centers suddenly becomes palatable.
Why make a move like this without surveying the revised landscape?
• Pay little heed to the grandiose price tags being attached to Staal in the public prints. Agents need multiple Mercedes, too.
Staal will earn $6 million to $7 million annually wherever he goes.
• He must want to stay.
After the closing loss in Philadelphia, I asked Staal if he wanted to stay with the Penguins for years to come. His response: “I love playing here. I love being a part of this group. We'll see how the future goes.”
I believe him. But Staal's in his prime at 23 years old, and his 50 points in 62 games this season further underscored that he's well above being a No. 3 center and power-play spare part.
Know this: If Staal flat-out tells the Penguins he's set on staying — he's sent no direct signals either way — a lot will change. But they have to know.
• Bylsma should be spending all his waking hours figuring out what went wrong in the final month. And if what he learns can be addressed by altering positional priorities, that must be part of this call.
Too many centers?
Too small on the wings?
When Darryl Sutter took over the Kings' bench in midseason, he sought more punch on his wings. Jeff Carter and Dwight King were added, and you can still see how that's worked.
• Trade Paul Martin.
Sorry. Had to get that in.
• If the Penguins do move Staal, it can't just be for a future star. Again, this roster isn't built that way. Immediate help is needed, and that means a physical, son-of-Scuderi defenseman.
So toss out fantasies of taking the No. 1 overall draft pick from Edmonton. The Oilers don't have that D-man to give, unless you want Ryan Whitney back.
Bear in mind, too, that Staal will have to want to play for his new team. The only way the Penguins can assure maximum value is if the other party knows he'll sign anextension.
Could it be ... the Leafs?
No, a reunion with older brother Eric in Carolina is a far better fit for everyone.
• Never complain about the cap. These are problems the Penguins — and Steelers — are lucky to have.
• Sounds to me like Staal's name has been reduced to a rotisserie piece in some local hockey chatter. And I get that. Trade talk of this scope is tantalizing.
But perspective is due. Staal has been a special player, an exemplary citizen for the team and the city for six years. He's a Stanley Cup champion, thanks in part to the greatest short-handed goal in franchise history. He's only getting better, too.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath here, Staal and Shero included.
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Submitted by: Steve on Friday, May 18, 2012
Everyone thinks just adding a "Scuderi" type defenseman will fix things. Sorry, but that's only half the problem. Until they play a game that can benefit from stay at home defensemen like they used to have with Gill, Scuderi and even Eaton, adding those kinds of players won't change the recent playoff outcomes. Does anyone think teams like LA and NJ are having success just because of the type of players they have, or more because they play a way that allows those players to be successful? They can bring back the entire team that won the cup in '09, but until they play they way they need to to be successful, it won't equate to a another championship. When I watch the Kings or the Devils play, I see them doing all the things this Pens team used to do when they were being called the next dynasty and that is ferocious forechecking and attention to defensive detail from every player on the ice. Sure they had and still have the offensive superstars but that wasn't the ultimate reason they won. Staal trade or not, the problems with this team are deeper than just a couple roster "tweaks" can fix. They need to re-examine their entire game philosophy and when you keep the same run and gun coach, that won't happen. Oh, and Staal WILL be traded. No matter what the cap ends up being, the Pens will NOT pay a 3rd line center what he will demand and he will not be moved to wing...and why would he? He's not a $6 million winger and he knows he can make much more money signing as a center elsewhere. The question is for who will they trade him for. I'd rather them trade for a honest to goodness winger. No reason to aquire a top stay at home defenseman who won't make a difference on a team hell bent on not playing they way needed to reap the rewards in having one in the first place. On this team...they way they play now...fans would more likely be calling for Scuderi's head. As it stands, even if they end up bringing in the son of Scuderi, they should also be prepared to bring in the brother of Therrien as well.
Submitted by: Roland on Friday, May 18, 2012
All this trade staal chatter is ridiculous. Until shero figures out his options for 7 and 4 there's literally no point in even discussing the possibility trading staal. Anyone who supports trading Geno needs their head examined or their pens viewing priviledges revoked. And think of it this way...if we trade staal and get fair value in return we wont be able to resign those young players when their entry level contracts are up. If they're any good those 2-4 players the pens get back will make more combined than staal. So trading a cornerstone like staal for multiple pieces that may only be around for 1-2 years doesnt make sense if we're stuck with a couple inferior players to staal. And staal is no dumby either...he knows going to another teams means playing against top 4 d-man all the time. His numbers and reputation would take a major hit. About the wings...how bout we draft and develop? Shero needs to examine his scouting staff and figure out why they cant hit the jackpot even on accident every now and then when selecting wingers. And tim said it well...its all about the D. 7 and 4 MUST go if the pens are to have a competitive playoff team(if they stay bylsma MUST adjust his forecheck to insulate them) and physical mobile d-man must replace them--shea weber and/or jason garrison would be my ideal choices.
Submitted by: Bob on Friday, May 18, 2012
I think too much is being written about a trade of Jordan Staal and not enough about a trade of Evgeni Malkin. Malkin plays his best hockey when Sidney Crosby is not in the lineup. He is a franchise player who needs his own franchise. I know you disagree, Dejan, but I would be very interested to read your thoughts about how the Penguins might look were they to trade Malkin who, with his skills and additional time on his contract, is a much more valuable commodity than Staal. Remember, the Oilers won the Cup again the year after Gretzky left. Also, as we are seeing play out in the NBA playoffs, winning teams are not just about having big pieces, they're about having pieces that fit.
Submitted by: Tim on Friday, May 18, 2012
What do you know, it worked. I have been having one heck of a time getting on this talk back. I don't know where this Staal thing started, but it seems the Pittsburgh media believes it knows something everyone, including Shero and Staal, don't. I agree with you on all points, I believe. I believe they can and will afford all three centers. Staal at 23, is only going to become more of an offensive beast. I believe the onus is on Bylsma. Puck possession, offensive zone time, stick on puck, etc, are effective and he has the regular season stats to show for it, but he must realize the other teams in the playoffs are pretty good too and will spend time in the defensive zone. You mention, wings, but I have said and still stand by the fact that it all comes down to the D. Period. They need a couple of rock solid, stay at home D-men. Not everyone can be Bobby Orr. That's where Bylsma has to be smart. They have a lot of D in the pipeline, but I don't know how many are equipped to be stalwarts. Go Ray Shero.