By MARK MADDEN
When Jordan Staal trade rumors first circulated a few years ago, I asked Ray Shero for comment. The Penguins GM bluntly replied: “I am not trading Jordan Staal.”
It still goes.
The latest tripe has Staal going to Los Angeles for winger Dustin Brown, with different versions including different players. Defenseman Jack Johnson, Sidney Crosby’s prep-school buddy, is often mentioned as coming to Pittsburgh. But Crosby isn’t the Pens’ de facto GM, and loneliness is no problem for Sid.
The Kings likely scoff at such innuendo, too. Brown, their captain, is signed to a pact that pays $3.175 million per year through 2013-14. Excellent player, affordable contract.
The Kings might like to deal Johnson. The third pick overall in 2005, it’s too early to call Johnson a bust, but he is underachieving.
Staal is an important part of the Penguins’ three-center model. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Staal allow the Pens to dominate slot to slot for 60 minutes. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Staal’s bulk, wingspan and defensive acumen make him brutal to play against.
Staal doesn’t score a ton. He doesn’t need to, though it’s worth noting he has one more goal than Brown.
Anyway, the Penguins aren’t broken. Why would Shero try to fix them?
The team is 20-9 despite an epidemic of injuries not often seen in any sport. Staal is playing excellent two-way hockey. Lack of production at wing is frustrating for all three centers, sure. But winning trumps all.
(Don’t think that stats aren’t important to players like Crosby and Malkin, though. I talked to Sid after he netted twice against Colorado Thursday and asked him if he was leading the league in goals. “Two behind [Marian] Gaborik,” he instantly replied. Guys like that KNOW.)
When the wing problem gets fixed, it will be through the development of Luca Caputi and Eric Tangradi. Caputi may have turned a corner at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, netting nine goals in 21 games including five in his last nine games and six on the power play. It would not be shocking to see the Pens give Caputi a lengthy look in January.
Bottom line: Staal isn’t going anywhere. His current contract runs through 2013-14, so he can buy, not rent.
When I ran the Staal-to-LA rumor by Shero after Thursday’s win, he was talking to Mario Lemieux, and Shero said to Mario, “Mark is the guy who told me, on the ice in Detroit [after Game 7], to never listen to him if he said to trade Staal.” True story, and it’s also true that I once did endorse trading Staal for a scoring winger. No more.
Shero then said, “I couldn’t trade him if I wanted to. No interest.”
Added Mario, “Nobody wants him.”
The latter two facetious remarks were made for the benefit of Staal, who happened to be wandering by. He wasn’t listening. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Those who believe Jordan Staal trade rumors must be very happy.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).
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