PITTSBURGH -- The "Big Three" of the Pittsburgh Penguins is no more, and the number of members of the Staal family who will reside in North Carolina next season grew Friday night.
Center - CAR
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 25 | PTS: 50
SOG: 149 | +/-: 11
Pittsburgh traded center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, center Brandon Sutter and defense prospect Brian Dumoulin.
"When you are acquiring an elite player, you have to give a lot for it, and we did," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said after adding Jordan Staal to a roster than also includes big brother Eric. "We paid Pittsburgh a good price. We love Brandon Sutter. He’s been a very good player for us and he’s got a great career ahead of him. Dumoulin is another one, coming out of Boston College -- a good, young defenseman. This was certainly a very fair hockey deal."
Jordan Staal, who reportedly turned down a 10-year contract offer from the Penguins earlier this week, will be united with Eric in Carolina. Both were taken with the second pick in their respective draft years -- Eric in 2003, Jordan in 2006.
The Penguins selected defenseman Derrick Pouliot from Portland of the Western Hockey League with the pick acquired from Carolina. Just before Shero announced the pick, he thanked Jordan Staal for six years in Pittsburgh, which included a big role in the team's 2009 Stanley Cup victory.
"My feeling on Jordan Staal is I didn’t want to trade him," Shero said of the 23-year-old center, who has one year remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. "I said that, and my goal was to try and get him to sign a contract extension with the Penguins and how far could we go with this three-center model that we had remained to be seen, but I’d like to that. It just became more apparent as we talked about it internally. I’ve talked to Jordan for six years and had a great relationship with him and his family. It just felt like the right thing to do.
"I always felt that up until at some point today that Jordan was going to be back with us next year. We’ve had a great relationship and he was a very important player for our team. A couple teams were pretty aggressive today, one being Carolina. We just felt as an organization that Jordan is at the point of his career where it is time to really take the next step in his development and the Carolina deal really made sense with the assets we got in return. It was a fair deal for both parties."
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It was already going to be a momentous day for Staal. On the day he was traded to play with his brother, he also married his fiancée, Heather, in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont.
Rutherford said he met with Shero before the draft began in his office, and that they completed the deal at 6:45 p.m. ET. The Hurricanes GM said he expects to begin contract negotiations with Staal early next month.
Staal, who turns 24 in September, completed his sixth NHL season in 2011-12, scoring 25 goals and adding 25 assists to set a career high in points (50) despite playing in just 62 of Pittsburgh’s 82 regular-season games. He added six goals and three assists to lead the Penguins in scoring in their six-game, first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia.
"I believe this improves our team," Rutherford said. "Name me two or three other players, [centers], who are like Jordan Staal? You just can’t find them. I don’t think it is a timing thing or a bold move -- it just happened that he was available to us and we were able to make the deal."
Sutter, the 11th player taken in the 2007 NHL Draft, had 17 goals and 32 points in 82 games with Carolina in 2011-12. He has two more years on his deal, with a salary cap hit of $2.066 million so the move saves Pittsburgh nearly $2 million for the coming season.
"Brandon is the key to the deal for us," Shero said. "We really like Derrick Pouliot a lot and Brian Dumoulin is a key asset as well, but an NHL-ready Brandon Sutter -- he’s a proven player in the League. He’s a young player. He’s signed. We love the character. We love what he brings. He’s got good size. It is hard to find guys like that. Defensemen and centers are difficult to find. He’s a real key to the deal for us, and we look forward to having him with us for many years."
Dumoulin recently signed an entry-level contract with the Hurricanes after three seasons at BC. He had seven goals and 28 points in 44 games this season for the Eagles, and was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Dumoulin helped Boston College win the NCAA championship in April.
Pouliot had 11 goals and 59 points for Portland, playing on the same blue line as Pittsburgh’s 2011 first-round pick, Joe Morrow. Shero said the Penguins liked Pouliot’s skating ability and offensive potential.
Moving Staal breaks up the Pittsburgh triumvirate at center, who along with captain Sidney Crosby and 2011-12 League MVP Evgeni Malkin has been a matchup nightmare for opposing clubs. But Shero was adamant that this move does not mean the Penguins are moving away from the "three-center model" that made Pittsburgh champions in 2009.
"We’ve got three centers," he said. "We got Brandon Sutter, and with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that is three really good centers. That’s the strength of our team. We’re looking for Brandon to being a big part of that. It was pretty important to me in building this team to have a young center like that to put with Crosby and Malkin. It makes our team a good team still and in the future moving forward."
For the Hurricanes, adding another Staal means adding another impact forward, which was something Rutherford said on multiple occasions was a priority this offseason. Part of that was finding someone to play with Eric, which isn’t likely to be Jordan’s role, so another addition could be forthcoming.
With Sutter gone, the Staal brothers are likely to center the top two lines for Carolina. Jordan Staal may have set a career high in points this past season, but it might not be for long.
"He’s only 24 years old [in September]. He’s still got an upside, and I highly suspect that those offensive numbers will go up," Rutherford said. "I think it will be great. With the character they have and the will to win, I think it will be a great fit."