Staal brothers reunited in Carolina 0
The Penguins have traded forward Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes in exchange for two prospects and a draft pick on Friday. (MIKE CARLSON/Reuters)
It turned out to be an interesting night for Jordan Staal.
A divorce and a wedding in the same day.
After Staal was married in Thunder Bay Friday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Penguins sent him packing in a blockbuster deal with the Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL draft. In reuniting Staal with his brother, Eric, the Hurricanes parted with their first-round pick (eighth overall, which turned out to be defenceman Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks), centre Brandon Sutter and defenceman Brian Dumoulin, who was the 'Canes second-round pick in the 2009 draft.
The deal stole much of the attention on a night when the Edmonton Oilers drafted Nail Yakupov first overall. The Sarnia Sting winger became the third Russian drafted with the top pick, joining Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) and Alex Ovechkin (2004).
As the eighth selection approached Friday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman went to the podium to announce the Staal deal, sending a wave of excitement through the Penguins fans on hand at the Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins acted swiftly to wash their hands of Staal after he turned down a 10-year deal reportedly worth $60 million. Penguins general manager Ray Shero was rumoured to be upset over the rejection and wasted little time finding a taker for Staal, who is poised to become an unrestriced free agent a year from now.
When he turned down the deal, it sent a message that he didn't see a future in Pittsburgh playing behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Rather than go through next season waiting for the shoe to fall and see Staal's value diminish, Shero made the bold move.
"I always felt that up until maybe at some point today that Jordan was going to be back with us next year," said Shero. "A couple of teams were pretty aggressive today, one being Carolina. We just felt as an organization that Jordan is at the point in his career where it's time for him to really take the next step in his development and it made sense with the Carolina deal. It was a fair deal for both parties and I think it's a good personal situation for Jordan and also a professional one. I think both teams are happy.
"My feeling on Jordan Staal is I didn't want to trade him. My goal was to try and sign him and have him stay with the Penguins and how far could we ever go with this three centres model we had remained to be seen, but I'd like to do that. It just felt the right thing to do with the Carolina deal that we liked, it made sense, the timing of it."
Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said he made his interest in Staal known to Shero at the end of the season, when Shero was quoted saying he didn't know if he could afford to keep all three centres.
Rutherford said he met in Shero's office at 5 p.m. and they had a deal by 6:45 p.m.
"I believe this improves our team. You name me two or three other players, centre ice men, that are like Jordan Staal. You just can't find them," said Rutherford, who was asked about making a splash at the draft. "I don't see this as a timing thing or a bold move. It just happened he was available to us and we were able to make the deal. I would have made this deal at 4 a.m. on the sidewalk. It didn't matter to me."
Sutter is a strong two-way player who should be a reasonable replacement for Staal on Pittsburgh's third line. Dumoulin is a "stud," according to one rival NHL coach who has followed his career at Boston College.
"When you're acquiring an elite player, you have to give a lot for it and we did. We paid Pittsburgh a good price," said Rutherford. "We love Brandon Sutter, he's been a very good player for us and I think he's got a great career ahead of him. Dumoulin is another one, coming out of Boston College, a good, young defenceman. This was certainly a very fair hockey deal."
Rutherford projected Dumoulin as a "top four or five for a number of years."
Rutherford said he expected to begin talks on a contract extension for Staal shortly after July 1. He said having the brothers together would probably help the process.
"I hope so. For many years, the family said the brothers want to play together. Now they're together, I don't know why you would go somewhere else," said Rutherford. "I don't think that's a secret in the hockey circles. The family said they'd like to see the boys play together. I've heard that right from draft day with all these guys. Never told that directly by the family, but I think it was pretty common knowledge."
Rutherford drew a laugh when he was asked if the Staal parents spent a lot of the winter in Carolina.
"I would if I lived in Thunder Bay," he said. "They don't (have a place there), but they may want to think about it now they've got two brothers (playing for the Hurricanes). We saved them a little travel, anyways."
Rutherford said it would be up to coach Kirk Muller how to use the Staals, but said it's possible there could be times when Eric will move to the wing and play with Jordan.
"With the character those two guys have and the will to win, I think it's a great fit," said Rutherford, adding he expected Jordan's offensive numbers should improve with more of a featured role with the Hurricanes.
Staal is a four-time 20-goal scorer in his six-year NHL career. He had a career-best 50 points in just 62 games last season.
"He's only 24 years old. He's still got an upside yet," said Rutherford. "I suspect that those numbers will go up."
Rutherford said he hadn't spoken to either of the brothers.
"(Jordan) got married today. I left a message right after it was announced and I said I didn't expect him to call me back for a few days.
"They're at the wedding and I don't think they have that much interest in talking to me. I didn't get invited to the wedding."
He might be an honoured guest at the next one, though.