We find it interesting that preliminary talks for a new contract have begun between Jordan Staal's people and the Pittsburgh Penguins. That's not to say a deal will get done, but at least there's contact. Staal is a restricted free agent July 1.
It had been speculated by many over the past year this might be his last season in Pittsburgh given the amount of money the Penguins already have locked up in their other two star centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But word is both sides are kicking around the idea of a short-term deal that could fit under the cap. Talks should pick up again in the New Year.
Well, talk is a good thing. And a short term contract seems likely for Staal. Look around at the climate of the league where teams are locking their young players up for big money when they haven’t produced. The poster boy for this is probably Rostislav Olesz, who despite scoring 31 goals in his first 190 games was given a five year $17.05 million dollar contract ($3.41 per season), based largely on future contributions.
With the Penguins having five players (Crosby, Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney) locked up for at least the next five seasons, it seems obvious that a guy like Staal could get squeezed out, especially with the salary cap not expected to rise next season, due this rough economy. But a short-term deal would make things work, for both sides. For the Penguins they’d get Staal at a better price then he would command for a 4-6+ year deal. For Staal, who is still establishing his scoring touch, it gives him a chance to improve his stats while remaining on arguably the most skilled and offensive minded team in the league.
The Penguins, by our estimation, have $13 million coming off the books this season with expiring contracts. Obviously some of these guys (to name a few: Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi) will leave pretty important holes in the depth chart and will need to be re-signed or replaced through other means. Also, keep in mind that Staal’s cap hit (and likely his final salary) is $2.2 million with bonuses factored in, so even if he signs for $3.5- $4 million a season, it won’t be as if he’s eating up *that* much more of the cap then he already has been for the past three seasons.
Don’t expect a press conference tomorrow announcing a deal, it’s likely these talks will continue as the months progress. In this case, dialogue is a good thing and one we’re happy to see happening.