Yesterday, Jordan Staal rejected an offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 10 year contract extension, for a reported $60 million dollars. This led to discussions in which fans tried to decipher and hypothesize the meaning behind Staal’s rejection of the offer.
Penguins fans in particular seemed to have wool over their eyes.
Lets say you asked your significant other of 5 years if they would like to be with you for another 10 years. They responded with “no.” How would you react? Would you believe everything was fine?
What if you asked one of your closest and most trusted friends if they planned on still being your friend for the next 10 years? If they responded with a “no,” would you be understanding about it?
It seems fairly clear that Staal has no plans of remaining the 3rd man behind some guy named Sidney Crosby and some other guy named Evgeni “Can Anyone Pronounce My Name Right” Malkin for much longer. I do not blame him. Staal may not be Crosby or Malkin, but he contains a solid set of skills and talents in his own right. Even at his young age of 23, he has already displayed leadership potential; a player that can hit and put up points isn’t exactly a common blend. 50 points in 62 games for a “third liner” is not too shabby at all.
Some Pens fans are under the impression that Staal will never leave Pittsburgh because they are a Stanley Cup contender. As if players have never left Cup contenders before. Christian Ehrhoff left the Vancouver Canucks despite the team being one win away from the Cup. Also, is Pittsburgh as close to the Cup as everyone thinks? The defense and goaltending was a joke against the Philadelphia Flyers in Round One of the Playoffs this season.
Another reaction was that Staal just didn’t want to make that commitment a day prior to getting married. That is just silly. Staal didn’t put the offer on hold; he flat out rejected it.
It is quite possible that GM Ray Shero is just playing his cards, and knew Staal would reject such a long term deal, leading other teams to increase their offers on Draft Day. There is a large contingent of Buffalo Sabres fans who are hopeful that the Sabres can wrangle Staal away from Pittsburgh, but what would the cost be? The Pens clearly need help on the blueline, and the Sabres are overstocked in that position. Would they take Andrej Sekera or Jordan Leopold, mixed in with a defensive prospect and a draft pick or two?
Being a former executive with Pittsburgh, the relationship that Sabres President Ted Black maintains with his former employer could be a bonus for Buffalo’s hopes in obtaining Staal. Black was a critical piece that helped build the success of the current Penguins roster.
If the Sabres were able to enter the 2012-13 season with younger players such as Cody Hodgson, Jordan Staal, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Tyler Myers, Brayden McNabb, and Luke Adam, I remain skeptical on how current coach Lindy Ruff would use and develop these players. Over the past few seasons, Ruff has seemed to become incapable of assigning players specific roles, and sticking to them. Oftentimes, players such as Ville Leino, Drew Stafford, Myers, Sekera, Adam, and former Sabres Paul Gaustad and Zack Kassian looked very confused as to which style of play they should be using, and what role they should be playing.
A team with so much young talent will need a leader on the ice and behind the bench to help direct them and inject the players and team with the confidence needed for a deep playoff run someday. Even if the Sabres added Staal, do they have a coach and leader that can drive them to the playoffs and beyond?
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