Getty ImagesPITTSBURGH — When Jordan Staal's now-wife Heather accepted his marriage proposal, it was an acknowledgement that she was ready for a commitment that would shape the rest of their lives.
Staal was given a proposal of his own this summer by the Pittsburgh Penguins: a 10-year contract extension, which might as well be a lifetime for a 23-year-old NHL player.
He rejected it.
"It was a very difficult time, trying to plan a wedding and trying to determine where my career was heading. I did get offered a deal. When I heard about it, I wasn't really comfortable with it yet," said Staal on Saturday.
"Getting that offer in the middle of the summer and just being unsure about the ice time and my role on this team … I ultimately wanted to see how the year went and make my decision from there."
The Penguins weren't about to be left at the altar.
GM Ray Shero decided the best thing for the team and for Staal was to trade him to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, reuniting him with his brother Eric and ending a six-year run for the center in Pittsburgh.
Staal was informed of the trade by his agent, in the middle of his wedding reception in Thunder Bay, Ont.
"I don't think we knew when we were planning our wedding date that it was on the draft day, and something like this would happen," said Jordan Staal in a conference call on Saturday. "With my teammates in the back corner there, it got a little emotional. But they knew a lot of good things could come out of this.
"Even if you know it might be coming, it's still a shock."
Staal said the contract offer gave him pause about the future of his NHL career. Signing it could mean he continued to play in the shadow of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, never getting the chance to be a No. 1 offensive option at center.
"With Sid being out for most of the year, you get that opportunity in that role to be more of an offensive guy. I felt really comfortable in that role, and I really wanted to explore and see if I could do some good things in that role," said Staal.
"The opportunity for me just didn't seem to be there."
@summerair_Signing that extension also meant, in all likelihood, Jordan and Eric Staal might not play together in the NHL.
"We had talked about it a little bit," said Jordan Staal of his brother Eric. "With all my brothers and my parents. It's not too often to have brothers in the NHL. To play along side one was a very special thing. If I did sign that 10-year extension in Pittsburgh, the opportunities to play with Eric would have dwindled a lot."
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said there were no guarantees in place that Jordan Staal would sign long-term in Carolina. But he said everything his brother has told him made him think about "maybe extending in Carolina, and maybe calling it home."
Staal said he wasn't eager to leave his former home. In fact, his preference would have been to play out the final year of his contract with the Penguins.
"It was a decision that I made and Ray decided to move me on a little sooner than I'd like, but no hard feelings. I'm excited where I ended up," he said.
How will the fans react when the Hurricanes visit Pittsburgh on Nov. 23? "I'm not sure how the fans are going to react. But I had some amazing years there," said Staal.
He already knows how his Penguins teammates have reacted, since many of them attended his wedding.
When an NHL player is traded in the offseason, it usually means a torrent of text messages with good wishes. But Staal said the timing of the trade allowed for some closure with his friends on the Penguins — hanging out after the wedding, dealing with the news and "saying our goodbyes" during the night.
"I have a lot of great friends on that team. The timing of the trade was tough," said Staal.