Pittsburgh signed Jordan Staal to a four-year, $16 million extension today.
My initial reaction to this news - and at the time, all I knew was the length - was one of mild shock. Not necessarily that Staal signed an extension with Pittsburgh but that it was for four years. Most indications/reports/rumors were that Staal wanted a shorter term deal.
After discovering the amount was $16 million, I just had to put my hand over my face and sigh.
According to nhlnumbers.com, the Penguins have nearly $42 million devoted to 13 players next season. If the salary cap goes down, they're in a heap of trouble. Even if it stays the same, GM Ray Shero will be scraping the bargain bin (read: garbage heap) to finish filling out a team.
Despite the new contract, there's no guarantee Staal will serve out all four years as a Penguin. In fact, with the contract, he might be a more attractive option in a trade.
The Penguins can't afford paying a third-line center $4 million. Perhaps they've rectified that by moving Staal onto Sidney Crosby's line. While I was unable to catch the game tonight, Staal's first with the new contract and linemate, Staal scored. Whether it was merit or luck I don't know. But he did score. And he'll take them any way he can; he has only 12 goals now. He had 29 as a rookie.
Staal needs to return to that 18-year-old form in order to stay in Pittsburgh. Otherwise, he'll turn into deadweight and likely be traded, and the return might not be very good. Maybe Shero could find someone to trade for Staal's potential and not his current production.
With Michel Therrien's line juggling, Staal's time on Crosby's line might've lasted one game. If he goes back to centering the third line, he's well overpaid. If he becomes a scoring winger, then the Penguins solved that problem without having to make a trade. (UPDATE: Staal started Saturday's game as center of the No. 2 unit; Malkin and Crosby were on the same line.)
Staal's still only 20, but the Penguins don't have much time to wait for him. They need to know what they have, whether it's a productive young stud at (potentially) a reasonable contract, or an underperforming, overpaid player who needs a change of scenery to fully develop into the player many so-called experts believe he can become.