Friday, 22 June 2012

Carolina "Drafts" NHL Centerman

It's rare when an NHL team can draft an NHL-ready player at any point in the NHL Entry Draft. With players getting bigger and faster, it seems as though only truly special players can rise to the challenge of playing in the NHL for an entire season. Normally, teams send their drafted players back to their junior teams in order to give them some additional preparation time for the rigors of the NHL schedule and to allow those players to mature physically. When it came time for the eighth-overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft tonight, I'm not sure that I was prepared for Gary Bettman's announcement despite all the tire-kicking that had happened in the weeks leading up to the Draft.

Ok, so the initial shock I felt was "did Pittsburgh get enough back from Staal". If you know anything about me, I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, so I took a vested interest in this trade. I like Brandon Sutter and what he brings to the Penguins. I like Brian Dumoulin and there's a chance he could crack the roster next season. I like the fact that Pittsburgh used the eighth-overall selection to grab Derrick Pouliot who looks like he'll be a great defenceman. But I certainly feel that Carolina upgraded its forward corps in a big way by adding the 23 year-old Jordan Staal.

This will be Staal's sixth season in the NHL. He can score. He excels at the defensive portion of the game. He's tall and lanky. He can skate. He can hit. In short, Jordan Staal would be a top-six forward on every other NHL team but Pittsburgh due to Crosby and Malkin. When he turned down a 10-year, $60 million contract from the Penguins, the writing was literally on the wall when it came to getting maximum value before he hit free agency after the final year of his contract next season. Personally, the Penguins did very well in getting what they received from Carolina.

If you look at what Carolina did, though, you have to be impressed. They essentially "drafted" a top-six forward with six years of NHL maturity to step in and help the Hurricanes immediately. General manager Jim Rutherford is confident that Jordan Staal will sign in Carolina after his contract expires, and I can't see that being a problem as the younger Staal will play alongside his brother, Eric Staal, at some point at minimum next season. So by giving up the eighth-overall pick, the Hurricanes acquire a former first-round pick who has grown and matured and has already won a Stanley Cup while being groomed in Pittsburgh.

Personally, that's a fabulous deal if I'm a Hurricanes fan when you consider it may have taken a pick up to four years to become a bonafide NHL second-line centerman. Staal has the pedigree, Staal has the experience, and Staal will made an immediate difference on the Hurricanes. I think any team's fan has to be happy with benefits like that.

The one thing that does excite me as a Penguins fan, though, is the available cap room that the Penguins have by shedding Jordan Staal's contract. While I'm extremely sad to see #11 skate for another team, the opportunity for GM Ray Shero to pursue Zach Parise or Ryan Suter is very real.

Crosby and Parise were teammates at Shattuck St. Mary's, and remain close friends today. That angle won't be lost on Shero when selling Parise on the positives of playing alongside Crosby this upcoming season. Suter, on the other hand, would be a featured rearguard, and was brought into Nashville by Ray Shero at the time. Shero was the assistant GM in Nashville who ultimately made the push for Nashville to draft Suter.

Pure hockey trades rarely happen in today's game. I like what Pittsburgh did here and they could get richer come July 1, but I have to say that Carolina's acquisition of a top-six forward like Jordan Staal certainly was the biggest splash on the first day of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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