HLMaking a case for Jordan Staal

With the draft a week away, Darcy Regier is going to get his second kick at the can for the weekend under Terry Pegula’s ownership.

To recap, Regier acquired Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and Calgary’s second round pick this year in exchange for Paul Byron and Chris Butler last summer. If that is any indicator, I would expect Regier to be busy once again.

Among the number of rumors floating around the internet, Buffalo’s interest in Jordan Staal appears to be somewhat serious. Staal’s rumored availability comes from the assumption that the Penguins will not be able to re-sign him while also keeping Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby with long-term contracts.

The contract status of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby may make Staal available.

As a sidebar, I am not of the belief that Jordan Staal would be an adequate number one center on any team in the NHL. While he is clearly a very talented player, I think he is nothing more than a very good number two center. However, his talent is at such a level that he would certainly contribute for any team that would acquire him.

Since the Sabres are still desperately searching for the player to fill their hole at center, Staal is certainly a target people are talking about. When considering Staal as a potential trade target, consider a few things: Is he capable of being the player the Sabres need? What will it take to get him? Will the package sent to Pittsburgh handicap the Sabres at another position?

As of right now the Sabres still need a true number one center. They have a pair of very talented youngsters in Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis; Derek Roy still has a year on his deal as well. However, none of those players are the premier talent that many teams possess. As stated above, I don’t think Staal would be the answer to this problem. By removing him from the situation he is in now – where Crosby and Malkin are the big guns – you set him up for much more focus than he currently receives. I don’t see him becoming a 30-goal scorer or a player capable of putting up 80-90 points on a yearly basis. But as a solid two-way center, he would certainly fill a need.

While he may not be equivalent to Crosby, Anze Kopitar, Jonathon Towes, or Brad Richards, Staal is a supremely talented center who will be a solid addition to any team. Getting him more minutes than he has now could provide room to improve his game, but I don’t think there is a 100-point player hiding in there. The way I see it, Staal is capable of being that 2A type of center who would fit well with Ennis and Hodgson on the Sabres’ roster.

Think of it as the Bruins Model. The Bruins have two very good centers – three if you count Rich Peverley – yet none of them would qualify as a franchise or elite centerman. The Bruins have plenty of talent down the middle, but not necessarily a game breaker. This is exactly how I would see Staal fitting in. Maybe he centers a line with a little more jam than the others (see: Foligno, Marcus), while Ennis and Hodgson settle in with guys like Vanek, Pominville, Stafford and Leino.

What exactly the Sabres would need to surrender in order to acquire Staal is a whole different can of worms. The Penguins will certainly want a first round pick along with a significant roster player. These types of trades typically involve some sort of prospect as well. So, just for shits and giggles, consider Derek Roy, Buffalo’s first round pick and one of the following players: Luke Adam, Joel Armia, Marcus Foligno, Brayden McNabb or Mark Pysyk to be in the conversation.

The Penguins may also push hard for a defenseman in any trade for Staal due to their apparent lack of depth at the position. What does that mean for the Sabres? Pysyk or, more likely, McNabb would be part of any package. That is probably a tough pill to swallow for most as Pysyk has just finished a promising junior career and is poised to begin his profession career this fall, meanwhile McNabb appears to be ready to jump into a full-time role in the NHL within the next 6-10 months.

Obviously you will have fans that think Roy, Andrej Sekera and a second round pick will get the job done, but that is a foolhardy sentiment. The Penguins are really in a position of power with Staal, especially because his contract doesn’t expire until next summer, and will be able to steer any trade talk in the direction they wish to follow.

While I’m unsure of Buffalo’s involvement in any trade talks regarding Staal and I wouldn’t be able to even guess if they have the pieces available to acquire him, I certainly think this is an avenue worth exploring. Staal would provide the two-way skill and depth that would allow the Sabres to fill out their ranks at center.

Staal may not be a true elite center, but his skillset would provide a number of intangibles that the Sabres currently lack. If the price is right, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him acquired.

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