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Room for Staal in Pittsburgh?

Jordan Staal 25 goals and 50 points in 62 games this season. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Jordan Staal 25 goals and 50 points in 62 games this season. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

A new contract for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby could affect the future of teammate Jordan Staal.

Crosby is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. His agent, Pat Brisson, recently acknowledged preliminary contract talks with Penguins management had begun, but declined to get into specifics.

During Hockey Night in Canada’s Saturday telecast of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, Elliotte Friedman suggested the 24-year-old superstar would have a new deal in place by July 1, the earliest the club can re-sign him.

Friedman said it “sounds like it’s going to be 10 years,” that the contract might start near the maximum annual salary ($14 million) and Crosby might have to accept an average annual salary of $9 million for the Pens to be able to build a competitive team around him.

In other words, if it’s a 10-year deal, it would be heavily front-loaded to give the Penguins a more cap-friendly salary hit.

Glenn Healy, Friedman’s colleague, believes if the Penguins invest that much in Crosby, “someone’s gonna go” and suggested it would be Staal. Tim Wharnsby added there was speculation if the Penguins shopped Staal he would be headed to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he’d join his older brother Eric.

Prior to this report, ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported several teams had contacted the Penguins about Staal and he also believed the Hurricanes would have the most interest.

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal also feels the Hurricanes would love to unite Jordan with Eric, but doubted they had the depth in “current/young players” to entice the Penguins and pointed out the Hurricanes won’t part with young center Jeff Skinner.

Matheson recommended the Pens target either promising blueliner Justin Faulk or third-line center Brandon Sutter.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch mentioned Staal among his “top five pre-draft trade possibilities,” and listed the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues among the interested teams.

It’s not the first time Staal has been the topic of trade speculation when approaching the final year of a contract, as there was plenty in the final year of his entry-level deal before he signed his current one with the Penguins.

Earlier this spring, Penguins GM Ray Shero stated his intent was to re-sign Staal and Crosby. It’s possible he’ll find some way to make the dollars fit to retain both, though it could come at the cost of depth elsewhere in the lineup.

The big difference this time, however, is Staal’s desire to play a larger role beyond third-line center. If he’s unwilling to remain behind Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the pecking order, Shero could be forced to move him.

Such a move doesn’t have to happen this summer. Shero could wait until a new collective bargaining agreement is implemented before deciding on a course of action. He could also retain Staal for the final season of his contract and try to re-sign him before his eligibility for UFA status next summer.

Media consensus suggests moving him during this summer, rather than allowing his contract status to be a distraction throughout next season, would be the best course of action. We’ll find out in the coming weeks if Shero shares that opinion.

PAVELEC JETTING OUT OF WINNIPEG?

Contract negotiations between the Winnipeg Jets and restricted free agent goaltender Ondrej Pavelec took an interesting twist when Friedman, citing a report from the Czech Republic, claimed the goalie received a “one-year, big-money” offer from a Kontinental League team.

It’s believed the offer came either from SKA St. Petersburg, or Slovakia-based HC Lev Poprad, the latter first reported in April by the Winnipeg Free Press.

Neither Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff nor Pavelec’s agent Allan Walsh would comment on the report.

The 24-year-old Czech netminder, considered the Jets MVP last season, is coming off a two-year contract that paid him an average annual salary of $1.15 million and is in line for a significant raise.

Ed Tait of the Free Press suggested this rumored KHL offer would not only provide Pavelec with leverage in his negotiations with the Jets, but also serve as an alternative for the netminder if there’s an NHL lockout this fall.

Inking one-year deals with the KHL could become an insurance option more NHL players take if the threat of a lockout becomes more of a reality.

 

Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla's Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.

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