Jordan Staal to the Penguins? How Very Rutherford.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a bit underwhelming of late. They’re 5-4-1 in their past 10 games, and 10-9-3 since the calendar turned to 2015. A winning record, yes, but for a team that’s regularly among the top of the league, “just barely above .500” is considered struggling. One of the reasons for Pittsburgh’s “struggles” of late has been the play of their two best players: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

This month, neither player has looked like the elite players that they’ve been in the past, and with the acquisition of Perron this season, the “lack of good wingers” reasoning no longer flies. Instead, as is typical within human nature, nostalgia takes over during times of strife, and Pittsburgh fans are pining over the “3 Center system” that won them the Cup back in 2009.

Going with What You Know

Jordan Staal was that 3rd center during the Cup run, and unsurprisingly, Jordan Staal is the center that’s allegedly being targeted today. According to members of the Pittsburgh media, citing unnamed sources, Jim Rutherford is interested in acquiring forward help, and Jordan Staal is one of the players they are interested in acquiring.

This should come as no surprise to Carolina fans. When he was the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, Rutherford allegedly called Pittsburgh every day to inquire about Jordan before the deal happened, so Rutherford attempting to re-acquire Jordan back to Pittsburgh isn’t a shock. Though if you think about it too long, the logistics of such a trade may make your head hurt.

Sutter has not quite developed as planned for the Penguins. (Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)
(Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)
In addition, Brandon Sutter has not quite developed into the player Pittsburgh was hoping he would become, when he was the main piece in dealing Jordan Staal. He’s still the same extremely intelligent, defensive-minded player that was dealt in 2012, but his offensive game never took that next step, making him a poor replacement for Staal.

Never Going to Give You Up

Rutherford’s persistence regarding certain players is the only legs this rumor has to stand on. When he gets his eye on a player, he will do everything in his power to acquire said player, even years later. He showed this while acquiring Jordan for Carolina, but the Staal brother wasn’t the only one.

When Joni Pitkanen was playing with Philadelphia, word out of Carolina was that Rutherford wanted to acquire him, in a deal surrounding Nic Wallin. The deal apparently fell through, and Carolina went a few more years without a defenseman that could break out of the offensive zone effectively. Pitkanen eventually went to Edmonton and struggled there, allowing Rutherford another chance to acquire his desired player. This time, he got his man, at the cost of long-time Hurricane Erik Cole.

(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)
(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)
Cole is an example of another Rutherford quirk that lends credence to this rumor: JR loves to bring back players he’s familiar with. An offseason couldn’t go by in Carolina without at least one former player donning the “sightless eye” again. Just ask Joe Corvo, who had 3 distinct runs with the Canes, despite being traded or allowed to go to free agency after each one of them.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Obviously, Carolina’s position in the standings is another reason why this rumor has surfaced. The Canes are bottom-feeders once again this year, and current general manager Ron Francis has indicated that changes are coming within in the organization.

“What’s going to guide me is doing what’s best for the franchise long term. The fans are frustrated, I’m frustrated. We’re going to take a look at everything closely and make some decisions that will be best for the franchise going forward.” said Francis

The need to shed salary, from a Carolina standpoint, is obvious as well. The attendance this year has been abysmal, with fans showing that frustration that Francis alluded to, and owner Peter Karmanos isn’t one to waste millions needlessly. With Eric Staal making over $9 million this year, and Jordan Staal making $6 million until 2022, those are two names that could cut a lot of money really quickly if they were dealt.

The rub is, of course, both players have a no-trade clause in their contract, and neither player has given any indication they want to waive it. Jordan came to Carolina because he wanted to play with his brother, and both players have stated how much they love Raleigh. Not that Francis would ask them to waive their NTCs in the first place. Back in November, rumors surrounding an Eric Staal trade were declared “absolutely” B.S. by Francis in an interview with Sportsnet Fan 590.

If Eric’s not on the move, Jordan’s not on the move. Both players control their own fate with their NTCs, and they want to play together. If this season is any indication, that’s for good reason as well. Though Jordan missed the first half of the season to injury, his play on the top line of late, with Eric on the wing, has been a sight to behold. Two players with big bodies that are dominating shifts in the offensive zone.

So Rutherford and Pittsburgh fans can continue to pine over “the one that got away.” There are a lot of names from the Carolina roster on the trading block. It’s expected that Andrej Sekera, Jiri Tlusty, Jay McClement and Patrick Dwyer may be wearing new uniforms in a couple weeks. However, the Staal brothers don’t appear to be on the chopping block this year, and there’s little reason to believe they will wear anything but a Hurricanes uniform for a long, long time.

5 thoughts on “Jordan Staal to the Penguins? How Very Rutherford.”

  1. NO!!!! Sutter has as good, if not better numbers than Staal. Staal is way overpriced ($5.5 million for a guy who has scored less than 15 goals a year since he left) and is injury prone. The Penguins offered him the same deal as he got in Carolina and he fled to play on a team with little chance of winning a Cup and left a team that always are Cup contenders. No thanks- pass.

  2. Inflation of the market happens as the salary cap rises. Tavares was a good deal when he signed it, but as the cap floor gets higher and higher and other superstar players sign massive deals (Toews and Kane for 11 million, for example), Tavares’ deal looks even better.

    The same applies for Staal. When he signed it, it was an overpayment. But it was for 10 years, and already the league has started to shift to higher and higher contracts. If Dave Bolland can get $5.5 million, Staal at $6 million is nothing. And I’m sure this offseason will see a similar overpayment, as will continue to happen as the cap continues to rise.

    PPG players don’t get $6 million anymore. The fact that players are barely hitting a PPG should tell you the problem with that logic. No one in the league is on pace to hit even 90 points this year. PPG has become the top-tier payment range, with the 50-60 point production becoming that next-tier, $5-6 million range.

    Yes, some of those guys listed have a higher offensive output, though that can easily be attributed to playing with more talented players. For instance, ROR playing with Duchene, Couture playing with Marleau, Callahan playing with Stamkos, etc. Up until this year, Staal was the 2nd line center with Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe on the wings. Quite a difference in talent there.

    This year, Staal missed half the year, but was almost immediately put on the top line with his brother upon his return. And he’s put up 14 points in 22 games since then. Small sample size, but watching the games, you can tell there’s that chemistry between them that could see great success in the future.

    I will agree that Rutherford is an idiot, and I’m glad Carolina doesn’t have to deal with him anymore. As always, thanks for the comment.

  3. 1- Rutherford is an idiot. Signing anyone to expect them to make the jump from 3rd center to top line is stupid. Over paying in hopes of wonderful future production. Even worse..No shit Carolina is a mess.

    2- I would take half of those centers you listed over Staal without hesitation.
    Bolland is an awful example also. He was signed to a large contract to get the Panthers to the cap floor. No one in their right mind signs Bolland to a $5.5 mill deal without that motive.
    I would take Koivu, O’Reilly, Bjugstad, Duchene, Kesler, and RNH over him no doubt. Sure you lose something defensively with a couple of these guys but I’ll take it for the offense.

    3- Sedin missed some playing time, hence the 50 pts. Putting an end to a long streak of 4 years in which he produced at least a point per game. And he already has 52 this season…more than Staal has EVER HAD over an ENTIRE 82 game season in just 58 games.
    Do not even mention Staal in the same breath as Sedin.

    Point per game= 6 million.

    50 pts is supposed to give the illusion of the old 70 pts back in the 90’s. But it doesn’t.
    He doesn’t have the offensive skill set to be that guy to push the offense and frankly if he topped the 50pt plateau I’d be surprised. He’s 26 so there is still hope but for such a high draft pick (#2) you sure as hell expect more than 49 pts a season.

    4- His advanced metrics ranks (5v5 individual stats) iCorsi/60 #221, iFenwick/60 #222,
    for a guy who’s supposed to drive the play and produce points to be mid-pack in terms of shots created…not very impressive. Granted he has missed some time, but those stats that show what he does on a game to game basis.
    The opposition also outscored Staal and his linemates when they’re on the ice. With the opposition goals for% of 51.7% Or 18th worst in the league…somehow worse than his brother Eric.
    And let’s not forget that his zone starts are skewed towards neutral zone and offensive zone face offs…Jay McClement does the hard work in the defensive zone circles.

    5- Now we’re talking about a guy who starts 65% draws outside his end, and can still only manage to be mid-pack when it comes to creating offense. And on the defensive side of the puck, fails to actually stop the opposition from outscoring them.
    Tell me how that’s worth 6 million?

    The inflation of these salaries makes me hate these players, a decade ago Staal would have been a 4 million dollar player at best. Why are teams so insistent on overpaying for mediocre talent.

  4. There’s a couple flaws in that logic, Matthew:

    1. Rutherford was the GM that signed Staal to that contract in the first place, and he signed it with the notion that Jordan Staal would be a 1st/2nd line center rather than a 3rd line center. He has been that for Carolina. He’s been playing 1st/2nd line minutes since coming to Carolina, and since his return from injury this year, he’s bee playing against top line competition (and succeeding. Check out his advanced stats).

    This is, of course, ignoring the fact that Pittsburgh was willing to sign him to the exact same contract to play the 3rd line only a couple years ago.

    2, It’s funny that you mention points, since league scoring is going down league-wide. The point totals for what one can consider a 1st line center and a 2nd line center have dropped. Last year, Henrik Sedin put up only 50 points. Kesler, Duchene, Koivu, Bjugstad, RNH, Nielsen, Vermette, all of them are 2nd line centers and all of them are around 50 points. Jordan Staal’s been on pace for 49 points over 82 games over his career. He’s a 2nd line center.

    3. But since you’ve mentioned Couture and Callahan, I’ll throw a couple more names out there: Ryan O’Reily, Mike Richards, and David Bolland. What do these players and Jordan Staal have in common? They’re defensive-minded, two-way players that make around $6 million a year. When Jordan first signed the contract, it was an overpayment. Since then, the salary cap has risen and Jordan’s contract has become more of the norm for players of his ilk. He’s not overpaid. He’s simply paid.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. The moment you signed a third line center to play for $6 million was the moment you should no longer be employed as NHL GM.
    Going after Staal is fine but unfortunately it’s going to require assets (I’m not sure why though he’s not that good)
    Six million is supposed to a buy a team a player who can consistently play 18-20 minutes a game. Produce at nearly a Point/GP and lead your team into the playoffs… pretty sure he’s done none of those things in Carolina except take up ice time.

    I’m sure we could get into a huge debate over the level of competition he faces nightly blah blah, but let’s face it. He does play in a weak division,and he’s not facing the other teams top pairing (his brother does though) so what’s the excuse for the lack of offensive production? Staying healthy is a skill too after all, and 50 pts as a season high is not worth 6 million. Unless you’re a blueliner.

    Oh you want him to play shut down defense instead? Guy Carbonneau 2.0! (Only difference was Guy put up points- 5/ 50+ pts seasons in his first 8 years, Staal has one 50 pts season in his first 8) but why the exorbitant price tag involved? Does he really deserve to make the same money as – Duchene, Miller, Hall, Nugent- Hopkins (if you think he deserves more than Ryan you’re nuts), Evander Kane, Pavelski, Couture, Lucic, Callahan, Tavares, Kronwall amongst others I omitted.

    I’m not a fan of Jordan Staal at all. I think he’s highly, HIGHLY over paid for what he brings to the table, if he were more consistent and healthy (because that is important) he would be an ideal 3rd line center, big and strong…but that price tag says number one/two option, and he is just not that.

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