Ray Shero had a choice. Trade two-way center Jordan Staal, or try to sign him and risk him leaving in free sgency next summer. A tough choice for Shero, but in the end, he made the correct decision. Jordan Staal is now a Carolina Hurricane. And the "Big 3" is now the "Two-Headed Monster."
When Staal rejected the Penguins' 10-year offer, a rejection that was subsequently leaked by the organization, the writing was on the wall. The Penguins gained some good young prospects in the deal, but I'm more inclined to look at this as a Jordan Staal for Brandon Sutter deal. Sutter, also from a famous hockey family, is known for his two-way play and special teams play. Sound familiar? The younger Sutter is signed for the next two seasons at a cap hit of around $2 million per season. Basically, the Pens received Jordan Staal 2.0, albeit with a little less upside, while gaining more elite prospects and cap maneuverability.
Later in the night, Ray Shero continued his wheeling and dealing, and cap-shedding, by sending Zybnek Michalek back to Phoenix for two prospects and a draft pick. For Pens fans, it looks like Shero made his club a lot weaker tonight. Good thing they don't play games this time of year. With over $14 million in cap space now available, look for Ray Shero and the Pens to make a splash on July 1.
The plan is now clear. Shero will need to address two areas when July 1 rolls around. The first will be Zach Parise. Yes, I classified Zach Parise as a need. A winger for Sidney Crosby is still a need, crazy as that might sound. Parise is an elite scorer and will be the most-coveted free agent when the market opens. Crosby and Parise are apparently good pals as well, for whatever that's worth. Look for the Pens to offer Parise as much as they can. He'll be the first target, and once he's signed (I'm being optimistic here), expect the Pens to go hard after another solid defenseman. A few names will pop up, mostly Ryan Suter and possibly Shea Weber. In either case, I expect the Pens to make a splash.
Now that the "Three-Center Model" is dead, let's see if Shero's new strategy will succeed. He's clearly trying to dump salary and use his stockpile of defensemen to acquire forwards either in free agency or at the trade deadline. The club now has the room to acquire legitimate scoring talent, whether that's Parise or someone else, as well as a (hopefully) shut-down defenseman.
It wasn't an easy process for Shero or the fans. But it was the right choice in the long run. It will take time to heal the wounds of this deal. I'm still a little shocked that Staal won't be wearing a Pens sweater next season. Staal's presence will be missed, especially because of his contributions to the Stanley Cup-winning team in 2009. After the dust settles this summer, Shero's Pens will have a new look. Shero made some questionable moves in the past, but given the situation, I challenge you to find fault with the moves made Friday. The process has been set in motion, now we have to wait and see if Ray Shero can make more magic this July.
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