In a previous article, I wrote how Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal has not lived up to the expectations of where he was selected in the draft (2nd overall in 2006); and that he is very close to being labelled a draft bust (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/703562-pittsburgh-penguins-was-drafting-jordan-staal-2nd-overall-in-2006-a-mistake). This piece also stated that the Penguins should have considered selecting a winger with that 2nd overall pick, and they need to do a better job of drafting and developing wingers to play with their star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
And then you have the Edmonton Oilers, a team not only with a bevy of young skilled wingers (Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark) but also the #1 overall pick at this year’s draft to boot. Two things the Oilers lack, however, are a #1 center and top-pairing defenceman. One thing the Penguins lack is young wingers. See what I’m getting at? These teams could make a deal that benefits both sides in the long run. The deal would look like this:
-Center Jordan Staal
-Winger Jordan Eberle
Why This Trade Makes Sense:
This deal makes sense for both teams because they fill each others needs. Pittsburgh’s youngest winger is the recently acquired James Neal, and their highest scoring winger last season was 30 year old Chris Kunitz with 48 points. With their only blue chip prospect (2010 first round draft pick Beau Bennet) being atleast three years away, Eberle would provide a much needed injection of youth and skill on the wings for the Penguins.
From the Oilers perspective, they are trading away a type of player they already have. Hall, Paajarvi and Omark allow the Oilers to pursue this deal, and make the loss of Eberle far more bearable. What the Oilers gain is a potential #1 center who is young (21 years old) and under contract through 2012-13 at a semi-reasonable cap hit of $4.5 million. Another thing this trade does is it allows the Oilers organization to select Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson with the #1 overall pick in the draft. How many teams have been able to obtain both a #1 center and #1 defenceman in a single off season?
The Red Flags:
There is no such thing as a no-risk trade, and in this scenario the risk falls mainly on the part of the Edmonton Oilers. The big question is this: is Jordan Staal a #1 center? Staal has had to play a majority of his career behind two elite players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, however his 0.53 points-per-game is frighteningly low, especially accompanied with a $4.5 million pricetag for the next two years. If Staal’s skillset is that of a 3rd line shutdown center (which is still a very valuable position), the Oilers would have $11 million in cap space (or ~1/6 of the total salary cap) devoted to Shawn Horcoff and Staal for the next two years. That doesn’t sound too enticing does it?
Another factor in this deal is the potential, or percieved potential, of Jordan Eberle. If Oilers management sees Eberle as a 30 goal/30 assist player in his prime, this deal makes sense. 30 goal forwards are a very manufacturable commodity (able to be acquired through means besides the draft, such as free agency and the trade market). Kris Versteeg, Joffrey Lupul, Chris Stewart and James Neal are all comparable players who have been traded for in recent years.
However if upper management feels Eberle is capable of 40 goals/season, this changes the scenario entirely. Dany Heatley is the only 40 goal scorer to be dealt in the past three seasons, thus making it an unmanufacturable commodity (unable to be acquired by means besides the draft) and increasing Eberle’s relative value to the Oilers dramatically. Of the top 5 goal scorers in the league this season (Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler) only Iginla has ever been traded, and that was well before his NHL career ever began.
Overall, Jordan Staal is a big risk to undertake for any franchise. The Edmonton Oilers have made it clear that they will not interfere with their rebuild, however taking on Staal could allow the team to reap the rewards sooner than they would otherwise. I wouldn’t make this trade, based mainly on the fact that Jordan Staal has not done nearly enough in my eyes to warrant consideration as a legitimate #1 center in the NHL, and a $4.5 million cap hit is too steep for an unproven player. What do my loyal readers have to say?
Salim Valji is based in Edmonton AB, writing about all topics hockey for THW. His work has appeared in the Edmonton Journal, Fox Sports and NHL.com. He is credentialled by the WHL and Hockey Canada and attended the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He will be covering the 2012 IHHF World Junior Hockey Championship for THW.