Two years after the blockbuster trade of the 2012 NHL draft, the Carolina Hurricanes are still searching for the Jordan Staal they thought was coming to Raleigh.
When then-general manager Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger to send Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 overall pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Staal, he thought he was making a bold move to complete the offensive core of the new-look Hurricanes.
|Draft Day Trade of 2012|
|To Carolina:||To Pittsburgh:|
|C Jordan Staal||C Brandon Sutter|
|D Brian Dumoulin|
|No. 8 Pick (D Derrick Pouliot)|
Twenty-six months later, the situation and the outlook has, in some ways, changed drastically—and, in others, stayed very much the same.
Rutherford has followed Sutter and Co. to Pittsburgh, fatigued into departure by years of criticism with Carolina.
Staal has been less productive than he was with the Penguins and has also—amazingly—been used less, as well.
He and brother Eric haven't found much brotherly chemistry together, although new head coach Bill Peters may soon try to get the two together again.
Yet, the two teams remain in very similar states as they were two years ago.
The 'Canes are still chained near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, still searching for that elusive first postseason appearance since 2009, still hoping a young coach and depth-lacking roster can convert on its potential.
The Pens are still one of the best on-paper teams in the NHL, still frustrated by perennial playoff disappointment, still longing for consistency in the goaltending unit.
Back on June 22, 2012, I wrote the following analysis of the trade: "The Penguins' acquisition of Brandon Sutter, Brian Domoulin and the pick that became Derrick Pouliot in exchange for Jordan Staal is one of the biggest Draft Day deals in modern history.
"It's also one of the most lopsided.
"The brotherly combination of Jordan and Eric Staal will certainly be frightening in Carolina, but it's yet to be seen whether the 'Canes will really gain an overall benefit with their best defensive center and two A-grade prospects now out of the system."
My initial take has proven largely accurate, albeit overdramatized, in the time since.
The hockey universe now has the opportunity, though, to evaluate both of the assets exchanged and also the effects resulting from the much-discussed trade.
Looking back, what has each club gained from and spent because of the Staal-Sutter trade?
|Effects of Players Exchanged in Trade|
|Salary Paid:||$10.0 million||$9.6 million|
|Total Cap Hit:||$10.0 million||$4.1 million|
|Future Salary Owed:||$54.0 million||$11.4 million|
|NHL Appearances Made:||130||135|
|NHL Goals Scored:||25||24|
|NHL Points Produced:||71||46|
In the standings, however, the difference has been largely negligible.
Carolina ranked 12th in the East in 2011-12 and has fallen to 13th in each of the two seasons since; Pittsburgh ranked 4th in 2011-12 and has risen to 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the two years since.
Nonetheless, optimism that more impact will eventually come from those involved in the trade lingers on both sides.
Staal's shooting percentage, a statistic that typically regresses to the mean over time, has plummeted from 13.1 percent in his last four Penguins seasons to 9.0 percent in two years with the Hurricanes. It's likely that the 25-year-old will get somewhat luckier in 2014-15 and at least return to the 20-goal plateau.
However, much of the production increase expected to result from his move south was based on the assumption that his playing time would increase, too, on a less-talented Carolina team.
On Tuesday, Sutter signed a two-year, $6.6 million contract to remain with the Penguins after a month-long holdout as a restricted free agent, as reported by the team's website. Six years into his NHL career, his ceiling as a strong third-line center is becoming more and more certain, but he fills his role effectively.
Meanwhile, the Pens are eagerly anticipating Dumoulin's first NHL season this fall after two solid campaigns with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
Derrick Pouliot will also play in his first professional season in 2014-15, although recovery from May shoulder surgery will probably hold him out of the first month or two. His development has been relatively slow: Of the top 22 selections in the 2012 draft, Pouliot is one of just six without an NHL appearance to date.
To say that the deal has been a failure for both teams would be naive, but certainly neither side has yet gained much satisfaction from their respective return.
The Hurricanes will hope that Staal will finally rediscover his star qualities. The Penguins, and the GM who made the trade for the Hurricanes, will hope that their pair of defensive youngsters can start to make an impact at the NHL level.
Two years later, the jury is still undecided on the trade's winner.
It's very possible that, in the end, neither team will come out truly ahead.