So there are realistic pieces that Carolina can dangle and then it’s just a matter of - oh yeah - does Pittsburgh actually go ahead and try to move Staal, or wait another year to see what happens with Crosby’s health? Organizationally, the worst thing the Penguins can possibly do is trade Staal, thinking that they’ll have Crosby and Malkin at their disposal for 82 games next year, and then one or the other is back on the injured list and suddenly a position of strength - the NHL’s premier centre-ice corps - becomes a position of weakness.
Still, it’s a talking point that will likely heat up closer to the June entry draft, as more and more Stanley Cup contenders drop by the wayside and the need to tweak and adjust, which didn’t seem nearly as pressing back at the trade deadline, suddenly becomes more of a need now.
WHITHER SIDNEY CROSBY?: When it comes to trade talks, the job of an NHL general manager is make an intelligent rationale decision at the junction where loyalty and smart business practices intersect. It sounds easy, but it really isn’t. Many times in the past, as mercenary as the industry has become, loyalty often trumps the more logical business path, when it comes to dealing - or more specifically, not dealing a player.
Loyalty is the primary factor behind the Calgary Flames’ ongoing reluctance to trade Jarome Iginla. Roberto Luongo made life a lot easier for his general manager in Vancouver, Mike Gillis, when he said in exit interviews that he would consider a move out of town, to make way for Cory Schneider as the team’s new No. 1 goalie.
The Canucks might have made that decision on their own anyway - and tacitly did, when they gave Schneider the key starts in their first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings - but Luongo could have made trouble because of his no-trade contract, which has 10 years to run.
Instead, he let Gillis off the hook, and now it’s just a matter of finding a home for Bobby Lou - and talks can start right away because all the principal trading partners (the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets) are on the sidelines already.
If you’re Ray Shero, the GM in Pittsburgh - and you strip emotion, history, a recent Stanley Cup victory and all his health issues out of the equation - the cold, hard logical choice in Pittsburgh is not to move Staal, but to ponder what life might look like with Crosby in a different uniform.
Sacrilegious? Maybe. Likely to happen? No.
But from a business standpoint, the Penguins would have to acknowledge that all the hockey they played without Crosby these past two years, they were a pretty good team. Statistically, Malkin produces more points when Crosby is on the sidelines as opposed to in the line-up.
Staal is more productive too - he gets to play on the second power-play unit and his role on the team is more clearly defined. (Note that among Penguins’ forwards, Staal played the second-most minutes this season, 20:03, behind Malkin’s 21:01. He also had five goals on the power play and three on the penalty kill, which suggests that his value is known to the coaching staff, even if he is down at No. 5 on the scoring chart, with a highly respectable 50 points in 62 games).
So then we turn to Crosby, who had a mere 37 points in 22 games this season, which prorates to a 138-point season, which would have been 29 more than Malkin produced this year to win the scoring title. For all the Crosby haters and doubters out there, that is a phenomenal upside, which naturally, all rests on the possibility that his concussion and neck woes are behind him now.