For most sports fans and diehards, the free agency period can easily be the most exciting (or nerve-racking) part of the offseason. For me, the NFL and NHL free agency periods are the most exciting. We are currently in both the NHL and NBA free agency periods. The NHL’s free agency has been much more fast-paced and interesting overall, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been in the middle of almost every major rumor going around.
Jordan Staal, the former Penguins’ star third line center, was not an unrestricted free agent heading into this offseason, he was entering the final year of a contract paying him $16 million over 4 years in Pittsburgh. The Penguins were attempting to resign the underrated center, who had been in the shadows of superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are also centers. Even though Staal had a year remaining on his current deal, the Penguins were obviously not confident he would they would be able to resign him after the 2012-13 season.
It was first reported on June 21 that Jordan Staal turned down the Penguins 10-year contract extension offer. Shortly after, Staal told Penguins’ GM Ray Shero that he would like to play for the Carolina Hurricanes, if the Pens could arrange a trade. Before no time, Staal was a Hurricane. Pittsburgh received C Brandon Sutter, D Brian Dumoulin, and the #8 pick in the NHL Draft, which they used to select D Derrick Pouliot. That’s all terrific, Jordan, but here’s what isn’t…
On July 1, it was confirmed that the Hurricanes had signed Jordan Staal to a 10-year, $60 million offer. It was then reported that the Penguins’ deal, which Staal rejected, was also around $60 million. So let me get this straight, Jordan Staal would rather get paid the exact same amount to ruin his career in Carolina, as opposed to playing with two of the NHL’s best and having the chance at multiple Stanley Cups? This is where things become a problem. Hundreds of players, like Jordan Staal, would rather be in a more comfortable place, or get overpaid, to simply lose.
The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, but since then, have missed the playoffs in 5 of 6 seasons. In recent years, the ‘Canes have been the definition of inconsistency, and have not established any identity whatsoever. Why would a young star like Staal, only 23, perhaps not even in the prime of his career, want to run away from a great chance of winning championships? I understand his family lives in the area, and his brothers Eric (NHL) and Jared (AHL) are both in the Hurricanes’ organization. I understand Jordan isn't a fan of big markets, so Raleigh might be his ideal city to play in. But seriously, the Penguins are loaded, and will be one of the preseason favorites to win it all for years to come. Staal will be stuck in Carolina, where his team will be lucky to make the playoffs, at least for the upcoming few years.
I question Jordan Staal’s passion for hockey and for winning in general. If he had sold out for more money, I could maybe understand the decision a little bit more. But to pass up an identical offer to play for a mediocre team, just because his family is nearby, is absolutely insane. Eleven years from now, when his 10-year extension with Carolina expires, Staal will have one Stanley Cup championship…the one he earned with the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Oh, and to answer your question, no, I’m not a biased Pittsburgh Penguins fan. I am a diehard New Jersey Devils fan who is also a realist.
Brandt Frye is a Penn State sophomore sports journalism/sports broadcasting major. Brandt has been an avid sports fanatic his entire life. If it were up to him, his major would simply be “sports”. Growing up in Greensburg, PA, Brandt has long been determined to make a name for himself in the sports journalism/broadcasting field.