In what was one of the worst-kept secrets around the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes agreed on a blockbuster trade at the NHL Draft.
Numbers Game looks at the deal sending Jordan Staal to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, a pick and a prospect.
The Hurricanes Get: C Jordan Staal.
Staal, 23, scored a career-high 50 points in 62 games last season, but that only tells the story of his offensive ascension, not how he did the heavy lifting for the Penguins, starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone and facing the highest quality of competition (per the advanced stats on www.behindthenet.ca), which helped free up other Penguins to focus on the offensive side of the game.
By moving to Carolina, however, Staal joins his brother Eric and will move into a more offensive role in his own right, as it's expected that Jordan Staal will stay at centre while Eric Staal moves to the wing on the No. 1 line.
While Jordan Staal has been stuck behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins' centre depth chart, injuries to those star performers have allowed Staal to play in more offensive situations over the past couple seasons and he has produced 36 goals and 80 in 104 games over the last two seasons.
Of course, that means Staal has missed 60 games over the last two seasons, with a variety of injuries, but if he stays healthy, he should go for a career-high in points next season.
Going into the final year of his contract, which comes at a $4-million cap hit, Staal will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, but considering that Carolina was Staal's preferred destination, it seems highly likely that a long-term extension will be worked out. That Carolina was Staal's first choice also contributed to Pittsburgh getting a more significant package in return from Pittsburgh.
The Penguins Get: C Brandon Sutter, D Brian Dumoulin and the 8th overall pick.
Sutter is a terrific player for the Penguins to get as the centrepiece of the package coming to Pittsburgh. The 23-year-old is turning into one of the game's best defensive forwards, playing against a high level of competition and starting only 34.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone (per www.behindthenet.ca), an indication that he is ideally suited for the third-line checking centre role that Staal had outgrown.
Not only is Sutter a good fit in the lineup, but he's under contract for two more seasons, at a cap hit of $2.067M per, at which point he will be a restricted free agent, so the Penguins have greater financial control over Sutter.
Just wrapping up a successful three-year college career, Brian Dumoulin had 28 points and a plus-27 rating in 44 games for National Champion Boston College. The 20-year-old is big and strong, capable of handling the physical work in the defensive zone. He might require some time in the AHL, but could also push for a spot in Pittsburgh very soon.
With the eighth pick that the Penguins acquired, the Penguins selected Derrick Pouliot from Portland of the Western Hockey League, where he is teammates with Joe Morrow, a first-round pick by the Penguins last year. In the regular season and playoffs combined, Pouliot put up 76 points in 94 games, and he's highly-regarded as an offensive defenceman.
There is no need to rush the process with Pouliot, but he's a nice asset to consider a few years down the line.
Ultimately, Pittsburgh had to decide whether they wanted to go into the 2011-2012 season with Staal on the roster and risk losing him for nothing as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Considering the Penguins have expectations of competing for the Stanley Cup, it's highly unlikely that they could have played three quarters of the season with Staal and then dealt him away before the trade deadline in order to recoup some value, so when Staal turned down the Penguins' 10-year contract offer, that paved the way for this trade to be done.
It's never easy to trade a two-way player of Staal's quality but, under the circumstances, the Penguins did a fine job, getting significant long-term value for a player with one year remaining on his contract.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.