Kovacevic: Disrespect the Penguins? See ya
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Sunday, June 24, 2012
It's rare in the sports world to trade a star in his prime such as Jordan Staal, rarer still for the general manager making that trade to hear approval.
On a super-sized, spotlighted stage in front of thousands of standing, screaming fans.
At 8:08 p.m., commissioner Gary Bettman captivated the crowd by announcing there had been a trade “that all of you might be interested in,” then broke the word: Staal to Carolina for 23-year-old two-way center Brandon Sutter, defense prospect Brian Dumoulin and the Hurricanes' No. 8 overall pick that the Penguins invested in defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
The way the building erupted, you'd think Evgeni Malkin had just buried a top-shelf blast.
And you know what?
The fans got it right.
Shero got it right.
The Penguins got it right.
The clear message: Disrespect us, and there's the door.
Shero is far too classy to confess anything of the sort, as he proved when he took the podium for that No. 8 pick and opened by saying, “I'd like to thank Jordan Staal for six great years here in Pittsburgh and a Stanley Cup.”
The crowd cheered that, too. Good for them. Staal deserved it. He was a from-the-heart performer and model citizen.
Of all the images I have of the young man, none will resonate more than how he was the last one in the locker room after each of these past two first-round playoff losses. Some do that for show. He was devastated.
But understand that neither the timing nor the intent of what happened yesterday was coincidence. Not after Staal rebuked the Penguins' astounding 10-year extension offer, likely worth $60 million. Not after Staal's agent, Paul Krepelka, publicly stated Staal didn't wish to negotiate any extension. And especially not when the Penguins knew that stance had one huge exception: Staal would be all too happy to talk extension if traded to Carolina, where he could join brothers Eric and Jared.
No wonder Shero was known to have been furious. He had to have felt used. Worse, he had to have felt as if Staal willfully lowered his value to the NHL's other 28 teams to force Shero's hand with the Hurricanes.
But if that anger was lingering by the time Shero finally met with reporters around midnight, it didn't show. He spoke softly of leaving a phone message for Staal — who was getting married yesterday — and the closest he came to any kind of assessment of Staal's Carolina preference was this: “It's time for Jordan to take the next step in his development.”
I'll say it again: Shero got it right.
Even after the news of Staal's rejection broke Thursday, some in these parts still naively hoped the Penguins could keep Staal for the final year of his current contract for another Cup run, after which he could become an unrestricted free agent.
Sorry, doesn't work like that.
This team's locker room didn't deserve the yearlong distraction of Staal as a rental player. And the franchise, the fans and Mario Lemieux — highly visible on the draft floor as this went down — didn't deserve being second in a key player's eyes.
Shero made the move he had to make when he had to make it. The longer he waited, the longer this situation would fester and the less value he'd find for Staal.
Did he get enough?
Impossible to say until we see more of Sutter, a third-line center like Staal who had 17 goals for the Hurricanes this past season, as well as the two youngsters. I'll settle for now that Shero called it “a good deal for us.” I'll go with the guy who got James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski.
Shero said Sutter “had to be part of the deal.”
I liked the sound of that.
And bear in mind that more could spin off from this: Staal's $4 million for next season is off the books. More was cleared much later in the night when Shero sent Zbynek Michalek and his $4 million back to the Coyotes. They have $14.6 million in cap space now. And yet another $5 million could be freed by sparing the citizenry another winter of Paul Martin.
If so …
Well, this is getting ahead of things, but the hottest free agent on July 1 will be Zach Parise, the Devils' wonderful winger and longtime friend of Sidney Crosby. He'll cost a pretty penny, but that's a penny the Penguins didn't have before all this.
Asked if he might have more excitement today, Shero replied: “We're going to try.”
Think that might bring a few more cheers?
Don't doubt this man.
And whatever you do, don't disrespect him.
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I would say that it did not matter what Shero felt about Staal contract rejection. Once it became clear that the Penguins would eventually lose Staal to another team without compensation if the Pens held onto his rights till next year, Shero had to trade Staal for financial and hockey reasons. Shero and Lemieux’s feelings were beside the point. Staal is too talented, too valuable and too desirable of a trade chip for Shero or the Pens to lose without gaining something near to equivalent in return. If Shero had any reason to be angry with Staal, it was due to the fact that Staal's methods made it that much harder for Shero to maximize the value he could get for Staal. Of course, Jordan Staal had no reason to want Shero and the Pens to maximize the value the Pens would get by trading him away. After all, Staal knew he was no longer a Penguin in spirit, and helping the Penguins would amount to helping an opponent at his new team's expense! Staal and his agent just made it expedient the Pens would trade him to the team he would sign with once he became a UFA. I’d bet alot that Glenn Sather accepted the inevitability of a Marc Staal trade late yesterday afternoon.
Submitted by: david on Saturday, June 23, 2012
cont'd... ...Penguins already have 3 Power Play QB in system (Letang, Despres, Morrow). Didn't need another. Especially one dimensional player.
Submitted by: david on Saturday, June 23, 2012
I am super impressed with Shero pulling the trigger and the value he got in return for Staal. I am super disappointed with his draft pick at #8: a) Pouliot rated much lower on every single respectable rating board. b) He will get overwhelmed in D-zone due to small size and lack of defensive prowess. c) Stanley Cups are won by winnning physical battles in corners and in front of nets. Ask Kings and Bruins. d) Prob would have been available at #22 e) Passed on Forsberg and other big upside Forwarders (we'll be reminded by the two Wash picked in round 1 for a long time.) f) Even if stockpiling D-men for later trade, there were 3-4 higher rated d-men available. g) Penguins have 3 Power play
Submitted by: Diane on Saturday, June 23, 2012
Dejan, my respect for you grows each time I read one of your articles. I think you are right on each of the points you made.
Submitted by: David on Saturday, June 23, 2012
Nice "bonus" article Dejan! I couldn't agree with you more on each and every aspect. I actually flipped over from the Pirates game to see if Shero had pulled something off. I was sorry to see Jordan go, but I think the deal was fair for both parties. It will be a huge plus if the Pens can sign Parise in July. Can't wait to see what happens!
Submitted by: Samuel on Saturday, June 23, 2012
Shero did very well under the circumstances and Staal got more than he deserved after he undermined the ability of the Pens to make a good trade.
Submitted by: K on Saturday, June 23, 2012
I think Shero deserves praise for the way he handled this situation and represented the franchise with class. And I'm glad Staal's gone. He did handcuff Shero by leaking the info regarding Carolina. I don't particularly like the return, but I can live with it to get Staal out the door. Good riddance. Ridding the club of Paul Martin would go a long way to making this one helluva weekend. But, those bodies would have to be replaced. It's probably a pipe dream to hope for Suter & Parise but...one can dream.
Submitted by: Ralph on Saturday, June 23, 2012
One thing that should be added here is that Z and Martin were Ray Shero's awful, costly mistakes in 2010 that helped take the Pens off the Stanley Cup tracks for two seasons. The guy is not above criticism -- with all due respect.