A lot of buzz around the interwebs for Jordan Staal's status, especially on the heels of his big bro's big contract extension. Daddy of the Puck, Empty Netters and USA Today all touch on it and pretty much come to the same conclusion: that the Penguins and Staal would be better off with #11 in a role of scoring winger and not a 3rd line center.
We've long advocated the need for Staal in the more defensive 3rd line center role but may be coming around. Look at the top 6 forwards, you've got the best two offensive centers in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Done and done without thinking twice. Then you've got Geno's slick winger in Petr Sykora and now basically Sid's version of Sykora in Miroslav Satan. Ruslan Fedotenko was brought in to use his size and be a fringe top 6 forward but he statistically is pretty reliable for about 15-20 goals and no more. Then who's the sixth? A rotating cast of characters like Maxime Talbot or Pascal Dupuis? They're out of place and don't have the production of a former 29 goal scorer like Staal. The Pens can hope, but not count on, an unexpected star emerging like Janne Pesonen or maybe even youngest Luca Caputi but, as the old saying goes; hope in one hand crap in the other and see what fills up first.
What are the contract implications? After this season the Penguins are set to have eight notable unrestricted free agents (including Sykora, Satan and Fedotenko) and will clear approximately an estimated $16 million off the books. Right now there's no reason for Staal to seek an extension, his 12 goal sophomore slump season takes a lot of leverage away....But this year if he plays on Malkin/Crosby's wing again, he probably will score about 30 goals like in his rookie season. And given how teams over-pay young players for long-term contracts (Keith Ballard at $4+ million for the next six years!!!) it should be no surprise that Jordan will attract significant interest from opposing GMs. Could the Pens match a $5 million offer (just under the threshold of heavy draft-pick compensation)? That's a question we're unprepared to answer--or even think about-- in September. By next June and July Mr. Shero will have to.
For now though, here's two possibilities of lineups...We'll leave the guesses of which is more formidable to you.
*Envisioning a rotation of players to jump up to the top line and try to catch lightning in a bottle.