Why The Pittsburgh Penguins Should Trade Jordan Staal

Mike CranwellCorrespondent IJune 27, 2008

I know, I know, you see the headline & you think "What the heck is this guy talking about?"  It's certainly a valid question.  With that said, you're about to read the answer.

If you remember what I said about Kyle Wellwood being someone you'll never win a Stanley Cup with, well, I have absolutely no doubt that you can win a Cup with Jordan Staal. 

Watching the Finals this past June, I couldn't help but notice Staal's game improve with every game, as he got more comfortable performing under the brightest lights hockey has to offer. 

Evgeni Malkin on the other hand, had a very average Series on the whole, including three stinkers where his jersey all-but-turned red.  Malkin did however pick things up in Game Five, making the pass that allowed Petr Sykora to fulfill his prediction, and then played a very good Game Six. 

Sidney Crosby, to me, is 100% untouchable, more if it's possible.  Because of the salary cap, teams can only afford top players for so long.  Jordan Staal is a future first line center/first line center playing on the second line center behind a slightly better first line center. 

But is he a future Hart Trophy candidate?  Malkin already has one of those nominations. Staal will likely be a top Selke nominee for 10 years, without a problem.  Is that worth trading Malkin though?  I say no.

If you look through the entire history of NHL champions, you will be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of teams who didn't have two top centers. 

Even this year, if you want to argue that Henrik Zetterberg didn't play center the whole series, which he certainly didn't, Valterri Filppula played some incredible two-way hockey and can take a lot of credit for Malkin's troubles in the series.

The thing is, while they're both special talents, I personally value Malkin's special offensive ability over Staal's special defensive ability.  You can teach defense, but you can't teach offense. 

I remember when I was younger, Bobby Carpenter was a top defensive specialist at the center position, and at the end of his career I was shocked to find out that he was a former 50-goal scorer who had re-created his game to stay in the league longer. 

NHL history is littered with those kind of players, just not with checkers who at 30 decided to start scoring a point per game.

Crosby/Malkin has the chance to be this generation's Gretzky/Messier, only with Crosby having more outward leadership skills in the Gretzky spot and Malkin possibly being more offensively gifted in the Messier spot.  How can you pass that up?

It's not that difficult to find a top defensive center who only plays defense, either.  This free agent season, Stephane Yelle is available.  I have never forgotten the yeoman's work he did with both Colorado and with Calgary in their runs to the Stanley Cup Finals, and even though he's nearing his mid-30's, he's got plenty left in the tank. 

Why not sign him and trade Staal, stabilizing your cap for years to come, and bringing back quality young defensive help (and an extra draft pick or two) that if you get the right guy, you'll never have to pay as much as you would Staal, in the process.

Just because no one is talking about it yet, doesn't mean that Pittsburgh doesn't realize they won't be able to keep all three of these guys.  If I was GM Ray Shero and I could get full value, I would trade Jordan Staal this summer in a heartbeat, while his value is through the roof and teams can remember his play in the Finals and talk themselves into his having an unlimited upside.