This past Thursday created a buzz around the NHL and the city of Pittsburgh as the city was preparing to host the 2012 NHL Draft. With everyone getting 24 hours to state their opinion on the Jordan Staal situation, it would be the main attraction as the draft opened at Consol Energy Center around 7p.m.
Watching the crowded floor with 30 different table moving back and forth, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who said there would be changes after the Penguins second straight year departing from the first round, made a move.
As Commissioner Gary Bettman stepped to the podium after the Wild made their pick, putting the majority of people on hand on the edge of their seats. When the trade was announced, a somewhat interesting mix of shock and boos that later turned to applause as fans were told what was exchanged. Then selecting Derrick Pouliot displayed how the Penguins are addressing the defensive side of their game.
The winner of the Staal trade is...both the Penguins and the Hurricanes. The Canes get Staal, a third line center in Pittsburgh who can be a first, second line center in Carolina and in any of the other 28 franchises in the league. In a way, it was a bittersweet wedding gift from Ray Shero to Jordan Staal and his now wife. Shero knew Staal would excel wherever he went. Six seasons in Pittsburgh playing behind Crosby and Malkin in a three center system many teams would kill to have prepared him for this next chapter in his career.
For the Penguins, a busy first round which saw Staal go and grabbing Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin could find himself in the minors when the season starts, but he could be a call-up. Sutter is a veteran, although not exactly Jordan Staal, he can fill that third-line spot for a smaller price. Trading Michalek to Phoenix for three players opened up cap space. This lets Shero enter the Zach Parise sweepstakes once free agency begins in July.
Imagine Parise on the same line as Sidney Crosby. You probably have already. Getting Parise in the free agency market would be big for Pittsburgh. The Penguins could find themselves in a situation with renegotiating Crosby and Malkin's contracts in the next two years. If the Penguins could gain more cap space, they could keep Crosby, Malkin and Parise for a while. If they are not careful, they could lose Evgeni Malkin.
There's a lot of optimism after this weekend. Ray Shero, who has gained the trust of the front office and fans in Pittsburgh, is playing with house money and like any general manager, is making a gamble with a signing. So the two days of picks is only the start of what is going to be an interesting next few weeks.