Are You Trading….Crosby, Malkin or Staal?

The city of Pittsburgh is still trying to recover from the complete melt down the Pittsburgh Penguins had in the Eastern Conference Quarter-finalsagainst the Philadelphia Flyers. The fans have

Ray Shero Penguins

Ray Shero (Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

not taken well to losing to their cross-state rival. Pens fans want some answers and they want some changes so they never have to experience the debacle that was the Pens versus the Flyers in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Immediately following the series fans and the Pittsburgh radio airwaves were buzzing with suggestions for Penguins General Manager Ray Shero. While the Penguins finished the season with 108 points, Shero has plenty to think about this off-season. Shero has made it clear that Head Coach Dan Bylsma, and his staff, will be returning for the 2012-2013 season. Besides the fact that the coaching staff will be returning, everything else is in limbo.

Until a new CBA is signed, Shero may not make any moves if he is able to keep patient. Shero has also admitted that he is still evaluating the 2011-12 season and the collapse that took place in the playoffs.

Fresh off of the Pens losing in six games against the Flyers, Penguins fans had the audacity to suggest that the Pens trade Sidney Crosby. Many may wonder who the Pens would trade for if they traded away Crosby. There is absolutely no number of players or single player who would equal the services which Crosby has provided and will continue to provide for the Penguins. To even suggest a Crosby trade is ridiculous.

Sidney Crosby Penguins

Sidney Crosby will be under intense scrutiny next season if he underachieves (Icon SMI)

Crosby scored 37 points in 22 games. He was one huge game away from averaging two points per game this season. He had 66 points and 32 goals in 41 games in 2010-11. His points per game average of 1.68 this season was higher than his 1.6 points per game average of 2010-11 which was unanimously considered to be Crosby’s best season as an NHL player.

Anyone who has ever had to return from any type of injury can attest to the fact that there is nothing harder to do than come back and play at the highest level. Crosby could have practiced all he wanted, but there is nothing like playing in a game. Nothing compares to game speed. Crosby was nowhere near the level he will play at next season after finally getting a quality amount of games in under his belt this year.

He represents more than just the Penguins. Crosby is the face of the NHL. Trading away Sid would run the risk of ruining the franchise despite the fact that Evgeni Malkin has done a fine job carrying the load in Crosby’s absence.

After the Crosby trade talks lost their luster, the next developing rumor was that the Penguins should keep Jordan Staal and trade away Evgeni Malkin. There was also a different buzz started by an Edmonton Journal article written by David Staples.

Evgeni Malkin Penguins

Evgeni Malkin has taken plenty of criticism for his play in the playoffs(Icon SMI)

Jordan Staal Penguins hockey player

Jordan Staal is at the forefront of trade rumors with his contract set to expire at the end of next season (Icon SMI)

In the article Staples asked Edmonton Oilers fans if the Oilers should trade away their upcoming 1st overall pick for Jordan Staal. This created quite a stir in and around Pittsburgh. There were many Penguins fans who thought this was a good idea. Other fans felt the Penguins should keep Staal due to his playoff performance against the Flyers and trade away Malkin instead.Such suggestions are also ludicrous.

The Pens are not going to trade away the NHL leading scorer and Hart Trophy candidate. Players like Malkin do not grow on trees. He was the best f0rward in the league this season and that cannot be argued. Gino was the only Pens star who was able to play the majority of this season.

Don’t forget, Staal missed a handful of games this season with a sprained MCL and only participated in about half of the 2010-11 season due to a broken hand. Staal has not shown any durability of late.

If something would go wrong with Crosby and his concussion issues next season, the Pens would be in desperate need of Gino’s scoring. Staal is not the type of player who can carry a team. Staal is a great player but not of the same caliber of Malkin.

Staal scored six goals in the series against the Flyers and lead the team in scoring in the playoffs. On the flip side, he only had one more point than Crosby and Malkin did in the series. For those who think he is ready to break out, Staal has always been an extremely streaky player. He scores in bunches and the Flyers series was six games of one of the most bizarre playoff series in history.

In terms of Staal scoring more, he is like the last batter in a baseball line-up. The last batter sees all fast-balls, easier pitches and the pitcher unintentionally let’s up. Staal is never playing against a team’s top shutdown defensive pair or a team’s 2nd top pair of defenseman. These two top pairs of defenseman are always playing against Crosby and Malkin.

Jordan Staal has scored more than expected this season, but he was also relied upon to be a defensive force. He was one of the anchors on the Penguins penalty killing unit which completely underachieved in the playoffs. Staal was caught letting Flyers’ forwards free and not playing his dependable defensive game like we have come to expect from him.

All of this trade talk about the three Penguins stars is outrageous. The Pens should keep all three for as long as they can. Shero may not be able to sign Staal in the future and a trade may be warranted, but we are a long way away from that decision. Until then, let’s show some patience with the Pens superstars.

After all, the defense is what needs to be improved the most. The Penguins scored enough goals to win the Flyers series. The Pens have no shutdown defensemen who play a gritty physical game capable of causing chaos for an opponent’s top scoring line.

The Penguins have enough scoring and they do not need any offensive line-up changes as the top goal scoring team in the NHL. The only way they should consider making a blockbuster trade is if they can get a superstar defensive defenseman who can keep pucks out of their net. If this were an option, then Staal should be the first of the three superstars to be considered since 3rd line centermen are available around the league who can play defensive hockey.

The window is closing on the Penguins to bring home a 2nd Stanley Cup with this young and talented group. They should keep the core forwards intact and not consider trading any of them. The Penguins should contemplate dumping some of their over-paid defensemen and search for cheaper paid defensemen who keep the game simple and play solid defense.

Justin Glock
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.
Justin Glock
@npv708 I've always thought we have a lot of the same type of D when healthy. But I didn't realize Despres leads the team in hits - 2 days ago
Justin Glock

5 Comments

  1. Kent Weaver says:

    It comes down to a simple axiom, the best team wins, not the
    team with the best players. The Penguins have most certainly assembled one of
    the best collection of players in the league and the window with the current incarnation
    of the team is 1 year to 2 years max. The reason being is the cap. Crosby,
    Malkin, and Staal are all on team friendly deals, but they will most likely
    require significant raises. Crosby and Staal can open negotiations on
    extensions July 1, but who knows how fast renewals will be made before a new
    CBA is signed. My best guess at this point is Sid and Malkin (who can extend
    after next season) get around 10 million apiece, with Staal somewhere between 5
    and 5.5 maybe even 6. If you take the upper end of those potential deals that’s
    and additional 4.6 cap space on a team that has under 400,000 available.
    (I know the cap ceiling may risebut probably not more than 4.6 million and the
    pens still need to add several depth players in the same time frame) Also
    factor in Orpik and Letang into that negotiation window.

    But what starts to make cap sense is looking to make a deal
    in this time frame, because the window is not going to close due to dwindling
    ability, it’s going to close because of the cap. The easiest solution of the
    top of my head is ridding yourself of Martin and Michalek. With a combined 9.5
    million in cap space, their removal could help alleviate any pressure against
    the ceiling. Paired with the Penguins defensive depth through the organization
    (Despres, Strait, Sneep, Harrington, and Morrow) you’ve got cheap solid
    alternatives. The problem is that each guy has a No Movement Clause. How much that will complicate the issue is to
    be seen. Sure you can bury them in
    Wilkes-Barre and get their money off the cap, (unless that is changed in the
    new CBA) but what does that do to your reputation in trying to attract future
    UFAs to the Pens. Their best bet is trying to trade them to teams that are
    contenders, teams that Martin and Michalek would be willing to waive their clauses
    to go to. In general those teams are pushing the cap ceiling or operating
    budgets so adding a 5 or 4.5 cap hit isn’t easy to do.

    So what is easy to do? That’s moving a Staal or Malkin (I
    don’t believe moving Crosby is in anyway a possibility). GMs would be lining up
    to acquire either one of those guys, and in my opinion you move Malkin over
    Staal. Staal offers a set of skills different from Malkin and Crosby that you
    don’t want to lose, and would cost less as well as netting less in a deal. I’ll
    preface this further by saying, I love Evgeni Malkin and the Pens would have
    been in dire straits without him the past few seasons, but he isn’t the same
    player when Sid is around full time. Malkin seems to be a stronger and better
    player when the expectations are solely on his shoulders. Now I’m not saying
    you trade him to trade him. You must be getting the farm in return. I look at situations around the league and at
    someone like Colorado who has an unhappy Matt Duchesne and highly touted
    prospect Duncan Siemens. Now those wouldn’t be the only two I’d be looking for,
    just the marquee names in the deal. I think you can receive several pieces that
    would allow you to build a strong team on the ice even if they’re “less”
    talented on paper. It isn’t a radical theory and is working pretty well in
    Philly with Couturier and Vorachek from Columbus for their leading scorer from
    a year ago in Carter and Schenn and Simmonds from LA for Richards their captain.
    Also in those deals don’t discount the cap room that opened up and allowed for
    the acquisitions of Jagr, Talbot, and Bryzgalov. As I said, it’s the best team
    that wins, not the team with the best players.

  2. Why wouldn’t Crosby want to leave after his injury and rumors of mishandling by Pen’s doctors/etc..

    • Head and neck injuries are not an exact science. It takes trial and error, and a lot of different opinions. Are you from Pittsburgh? Because there are only a few people talking about “mishandling” his injuries.

      • I guess I should try and clarify. I don’t think they will trade him, but I see it as a possibility when his contract is up, being a UFA, might look into other options.

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