According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Penguins are in search of a third line center so that Jordan Staal can move up to one of the top two lines. If they are indeed successful in signing one, it would free up Staal to showcase his offensive abilities, something all Penguins fans have been waiting for.
The Gazette states that the Penguins could be interested in Rob Niedermayer, former Penguin Dominic Moore, Jeff Halpern, John Madden, or Ryan Johnson. Niedermayer or Madden would make the most sense as they both provide the defensive prowess Staal has show during his tenure as arguably the best third line center in the NHL.
Madden, though, is an unlikely signing considering he made just under $3 million with Chicago last season. I would love to see Niedermayer in a Penguin uniform.
Assuming a signing occurs, the Penguins must decide if Staal should move up to the first line, forcing him to move to the wing, or have Staal center the second line and move Malkin to the wing.
Both have their benefits, but to me, there is only one logical answer.
The right move, in my opinion, is to have Staal play between Malkin and Dupuis. While a line of Crosby, Staal, and Kunitz is enticing, having Malkin move to the wing solves two important problems that have plagued the Penguins for a few seasons.
First, it makes them markedly better on faceoffs. Malkin, whose four year average on draws is 41 percent, is a liability in the faceoff circle. Compare that with Staal, who won 48 percent of his faceoff. Also, it gives them a decent option with a natural center should Staal get kicked out.
Secondly, the Penguins get the scoring winger they have long sought after. With the probable departure of Bill Guerin, unless he takes a pay cut if they actually sign a center, the Pens need to find another top six forward. Moving Staal up provides a long term answer to a problem the Penguins have been trying to fix for three seasons.
Furthermore, Crosby, like Lemieux, makes whoever he plays with better. I don't think Malkin does the same thing. Malkin reminds me so much of Jaromir Jagr: a player who is extremely talented but faded away from time to time and was barely noticeable. Malkin has a tendency to do the same. Adding Staal to that line increases the likelihood that Malkin will keep his head in the game, and when he does that, he is a Hart Trophy candidate.
Going into the offseason, I, along with most Pens fans I'm assuming, did not think they would target a center via free agency, but after looking at the options, it makes perfect sense.