The Penguins re-signed Jordan Staal today, four years and $16 million. On the surface it seems like a shock, a $4 million a year cap hit for a 3rd line center seems like a novelty.
But when you talk Jordan Staal, you must always remember he's 20 years old. In fact he recently broke Patrick Marleau's record of being the youngest player to play 200 NHL games. The sky is the limit, the potential is there. This year Staal's been going through an up and down season, but we've noticed he's been more physical in throwing checks than past seasons. His game is progressing and he is getting better, even if it doesn't always jump out at you. Take even strength faceoffs as one indicator; Staal's first season he won just 38%, last season it was up to 44% and this year it's up to exactly 50% so far. Even if the statistictial metrics don't always jump off the page, 6'4 220 pound defensively responsible centers do not grow on trees.
A second reaction might be; $4 million, that's a big increase. But it really isn't, Staal's on his entry level contract and his cap hit is $2.2 million. Cap hits for rookies includes the maximum bonuses, though it's pretty likely that Staal achieves most these bonuses (usual marks include appearing in 40, 50, 60 games, score 10, 15, 20 goals, etc). Considering that Evgeni Malkin could have been a $10 or almost $11 million man next season, what he left on the table covers a lot of Staal's salary bump.
So much for those budding Staal for Martin St. Louis trade rumors, huh? We never thought Staal would be traded this season, it always seemed like Ray Shero was very connected and comfortable with his first ever draft pick as a general manager.
20 years old and all that money though. When we were 20 the things on our minds were finishing papers, chasing girls and wondering where the next party would be. It's almost unimaginable to ponder four years and $16 million dollars.