Jordan Staal could be a No. 1 center in over a dozen NHL cities right now. Instead, he's like Bill Hader on SNL: Brilliantly talented, the glue that holds sketches together, but rarely in the spotlight save for Stefon on "Weekend Update" because Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig get all the airtime.
(Evgeni Malkin in this case being Kristin Wiig; Sidney Crosby being Andy Samberg, as Lindsay Lohan informed us earlier in the season.)
Staal has one year left on his current deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and rumors are that he wants more responsibility (re: ice time, offensive chances) with the team. Rumors were also that he could join his brother Eric with the Carolina Hurricanes, or potentially be moved elsewhere this summer.
But Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette spoke to GM Ray Shero, and he hopes to re-sign Staal and Sidney Crosby to extensions this summer:
Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal have one year left on their contracts, and Evgeni Malkin has two. Negotiations with Crosby and Staal can't begin until July 1, so there's no way of knowing precisely what they'll be asking for, but Shero reiterated that his goal is to retain all three.
"I'd like to do that, if possible," he said. "We're looking at hopefully getting extensions with [Crosby and Staal]."
While it is conceivable that Staal, the team's No. 3 center, might want to play elsewhere so he can fill a more offense-oriented role, he apparently has not said anything of the sort to the Penguins. Asked if any of the top three centers had expressed a desire to move, Shero responded, "Absolutely not."
The key issue in bringing Staal back will be the money he's seeking.
If it's top-line center money rather than a hometown discount, things could get interesting. But the bottom line is that Shero's a huge Jordan Staal fan, and rightfully has acknowledged that he's a talent you can't just replace. Does that translate into keeping Staal at all costs? It remains to be seen.
Jack over on Jack Has Spoken had a really good Pens-centric look at Staal's future:
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.
There isn't a center close to Staal's status available on the open market this summer. Were he to become available via trade, he'd be coveted. It's just a matter of whether Shero will allow that to happen.