I knew the rumors and speculation would start eventually, but so soon? The Pittsburgh Penguins barely had a skate off the ice after the Game 6 loss before the offseason questions began. The Sidney Crosby negotiations and the future of the defense are sure to bring some intrigue. However, the most hotly-debated topic will be the future of Jordan Staal.
The summer circus began early with the Edmonton Journal releasing a blog piece about the Oilers acquiring Staal. Staal will be an unrestricted free agent after next season, as will Sidney Crosby. Crosby will certainly get whatever he wants from the Pens. Staal is a different story. After early exits from the playoffs in the last three seasons, the Pens and GM Ray Shero may decide it's time to make changes. The Penguins will have a hard time trying to justify trading Art Ross and soon to be Hart winner Evgeni Malkin, especially since Malkin is signed long-term.
Staal is a supremely talented center, both offensively and defensively. He works hard, kills penalties, and is, by all accounts, a great locker room guy. If there is a way to keep Staal and remain flexible under the cap, the Pens should do it. I would see the Penguins trade from an area of strength, like defense (strength being a debatable term here). The Pens are deep and have many good young players like Simon Despres waiting for a chance. I would like the Pens to try to at least move either Paul Martin's or Zbynek Michalek's contract, and possibly even Brooks Orpik, before trading Staal.
Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review believes the team will keep Staal and offers an even more in-depth and somewhat sobering look at the depth of the Penguins. Arguments can be made for and against trading Staal, but I'd rather see all options explored first. Its not even May, and the discussion is heating up. Buckle up for a long and drama-filled offseason, Pens fans.
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