I know I'm going to get some emphatic comments for this one.
I know I'm going to hear "he's the best player in the world!", or "you just don't like him!" or "you know nothing about hockey!"
There's no need to put in those types of comments. I know what you were thinking when you read the title. All I ask is for you to read on before bashing my hockey knowledge.
Here's the deal. Jordan Staal has reportedly turned down a 10-year contract extension offered by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stall has said that he is not interested in any contract extensions before testing out the free-agent market after his contract is up following the 2013 season.
The reason for this is apparently because Staal wants more ice time.
He is currently listed as the team's third-line center on the depth chart behind Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. A player of Staal's caliber almost never ends up on the third line, but—being on the Penguins—he has to be placed behind two of the game's greatest players.
Staal has no reason to be reluctant to re-sign with the Penguins other than ice time. The team will be a top contender for many years to come, Dan Bylsma is one of hockey's best coaches and Pittsburgh is a terrific hockey city with a lot of history.
As I have already mentioned—and have recently written about— there are many rumors surrounding Staal and trades.
But would trading Staal really be that great of an idea? Staal has an extremely long reach and uses it to be one of the top penalty killers and defensive forwards in the game.
Who is the best player in the NHL?
And what does Pittsburgh need right now? Defense.
The Penguins finished last year with the most goals in the NHL, 13 more than the next-best offensive team.
Here's a stat for you: In 2011, Sidney Crosby missed half of the Penguins' regular season games, and the team finished with its best record since 1993. This year, Crosby played in only about a quarter of the team's games, and it finished with an even better record than 2011.
Crosby—who missed 60 of 82 regular season games and the team's offense still did not seem to falter—also has a contract expiring after 2013. He, too, has been offered a 10-year extension.
Yes, he put up a whopping 37 points in the 22 games he did play, which is a remarkable statistic, but the Penguins do not exactly need offense.
I get that Crosby is a great two-way player as well; he's one of the greatest players in the world. I'm admitting that.
Here's why I think keeping Staal and trading Crosby may be more beneficial to the Penguins than vice versa.
Staal is a slightly more defensive-minded player, and the Penguins need defensive players. Crosby is a superstar in every facet of the game but is injury prone, and his offensive statistics, while remarkable, are not what the team needs.
Speaking of what the team needs (defense), imagine how much more Pittsburgh could get if it were to trade Crosby rather than Staal. He's regarded by many as the best player in the world; who wouldn't want to trade for him?
What would work best for the Penguins—trading a defensive forward and penalty-killing expert when your team needs defense or trading an injury-prone superstar whose scoring you can replace—and who would command much more in a trade than would the other guy?
Once again, I understand the problems with trading Crosby. He's an amazing two-way player and can also play defense, but when your team is obliterating everyone else offensively while giving up about four goals per game near (as the Penguins were doing near the end of the regular season and in the playoffs), something needs to change.
Sure, if injuries weren't an issue, I would rather keep Crosby than Staal even if the team needs defense.
But the fact is, signing Crosby to a long-term contract could really come back to bite the Penguins, especially since his trade value could help bring exactly what the Penguins need in order to win more Stanley Cups.
I know that most people who have clicked on this article have not gotten to this point and are probably typing in angry comments or sharing with others how crazy that Rickert guy is; but all I'm asking is for Pittsburgh and NHL fans alike to keep an open mind and consider what would truly be the best move for the Penguins' franchise.