The storyline for tonight’s game vs Carolina is Jordan Staal facing his former team for the first time since being traded on draft day, a day after declining a 10 year, $58 million offer from the Penguins and making it known to the Penguins at the time that he intended to play his final season in Pittsburgh out and explore free agency.
Staal had six great years in Pittsburgh, playing a key role in two Stanley Cup runs and a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. He was the Penguins best forward in the 2012 playoffs and the Penguins haven’t felt the loss of Staal yet as they are second in the Eastern Conference with 26 points and second in the NHL with 69 goals but not having Staal is going to be felt come playoff time.
GM Ray Shero accommodated Staal by trading him to the place he only wanted to go, playing in Carolina with his brother Eric. You can’t blame him for wanting to play with his brother and play a more offensive role and because of the circumstances, the Penguins in reality got the best return they were doing to get for Staal as the trade options were limited because teams knew he would be hard to sign.
The Penguins received a potential long-term player in Brandon Sutter who has the look of being the Penguins third line center for years to come, at least until he wants a bigger offensive role, top prospect Derrick Pouliot who they took with the 8th overall selection has great potential as an offensive defenseman in the NHL, and prospect Brian Dumoulin is a good bet to develop into a top-6 defenseman or become a trade chip.
Was there an intriguing deal on the table from the division rival New York Rangers? The Rangers made a serious play for Staal, offering a package centered around Brandon Dubinsky and about 15 minutes before the draft started, sources say GM Glen Sather in a last ditch effort floated around the idea to Pittsburgh of being willing to move 40 goal scorer Marian Gaborik for Staal. Pittsburgh obviously balked at the possibility and pushed forward to officially complete the deal in place with Carolina.
“It’s going to be fun,” Staal said Tuesday on playing his former team, via the Newsobserver. “Obviously I was there for a long time and I have a lot of fond memories with that organization. We’ll be playing against a good team and there will be a lot of new challenges and it will be a good challenge for myself.
‘It’s going to be weird. I’ve seen it a lot, being in Pittsburgh and seeing other guys go. Now to be on the other side is a little different. It’s just going to be fun to play against those guys and just try to beat them.”
Staal is second on the Hurricanes with 15 points.
Aside from the Staal storyline, this is a big game for the Penguins as we’re reaching the point in the shortened season where every game means a lot regarding playoff positioning.
The Penguins enter tonight’s game second in the NHL with 26 points but just two points separate the Penguins and seventh place Toronto. That’s how tight things are and that will probably continue throughout the season.
The Hurricanes enter tonight’s game third in the conference with 19 points due to leading the Southeast division but just four points separate the first place Hurricanes and last place Capitals in the Southeast.
1. Montreal Canadiens (13-4-3, 29 pts)
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (13-7-0, 26 pts)
3. Carolina Hurricanes (9-8-1, 19 pts)
4. Boston Bruins (12-2-2, 26 pts)
5. Ottawa Senators (12-6-2, 26 pts)
6. New Jersey Devils (10-5-4, 24 pts)
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (12-9-0, 24 pts)
8. Philadelphia Flyers (10-11-1, 22 pts)
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (9-9-1, 19 pts)
10. Winnipeg Jets (9-9-1, 19 pts)
11. New York Rangers (8-8-2, 18 pts)
12. New York Islanders (8-11-1, 17 pts)
13. Florida Panthers (6-9-4, 16 pts)
14. Washington Capitals (7-11-1, 15 pts)
15. Buffalo Sabres (7-12-1, 15 pts)