NHL draft: Jordan Staal rejects new deal with Penguins
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PITTSBURGH—The Leafs are ready to deal. Or stay put. Ditto Edmonton, Vancouver, Columbus.
On the eve of the NHL Entry Draft — which is all about movement — all was very static. That is, right up until Jordan Staal rejected a 10-year contract offer from the Penguins.
The Oilers are holding on to the No. 1 overall pick. The Canucks say they’ll keep Roberto Luongo. The Blue Jackets seem suddenly happy with Rick Nash.
Staal’s rejection of an extension — the day before his wedding — only added to the surreal quality of a hot and steamy day in which hockey’s top prospects paraded around in a riverboat before taking batting practice with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
News conferences popped up all over the Iron City’s downtown core the day before the draft as teams tried to position themselves for Friday’s first round and set fan expectations.
His name goes to the top of the list of names to be bandied about in trade speculation. Rumblings are the 23-year-old wants out of Pittsburgh where he plays in the shadow of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Some say, he wants to play with his brother, Eric, in Carolina. Some believe he’d be the perfect No. 1 centre for the Leafs.
A trade for Jordan Staal would be “complicated and risky,” said a source. He’s got one year left at $4 million (all figures U.S.) and will be an unrestricted free agent at age 24 in 2013. The Penguins would demand a ton (think Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri, Leaf fans) of NHL-ready, cheap talent — and the team getting him might only get him for a year.
Toronto holds No. 5 and No. 35 overall, but has only six picks in the seven rounds and none in rounds three or four. The Leafs would like to add a few picks in Saturday’s middle rounds, and may deal a few Marlies to get them, said assistant GM Dave Nonis. But they seem happy with No. 5 overall. Unless they aren’t.
“There’s no reason for us to move up or down,” Nonis said. “If we could move up at a reasonable price, it would be something to consider. But we think we’ll get a pretty good player at 5.
“You never want to leave too much talent on the table. All things being equal, would we take a forward, a centre, that’s a pretty good assumption. We’re going to take the best player available to us.”
Nonis said there’s as much interest in the Leafs’ second-round pick – 35th overall – as in No. 5 because of the depth of the draft.
GM Steve Tambellini says the team will hold on to No. 1 overall, but he wouldn’t tip his hand as to which player he would select. Sarnia Sting centre Nail Yakupov is touted as the consensus No. 1, but the Oilers have a glut of skilled forwards and may lean toward a defenceman.
They have the No. 2 pick and probably don’t want a Russian (see Zherdev, Nikolai and Filatov, Nikita for reasons why). They might move down in the draft. Of more interest is what they plan to do with Nash, the 28-year-old captain whose desire to leave was foiled by a high asking price at the trade deadline. Jackets GM Scott Howson met with Nash’s agent, Joe Resnick. “It was a good meeting, lasted almost an hour and we exchanged a lot of ideas,” Howson said. “A lot of things can happen between now and when the draft is over. I’m not counting on anything. Obviously our goal is to do what’s best for our hockey club and that’s how we’ll keep operating.”
No. 3 overall. Marc Bergevin presides over his first draft as GM, reminding everyone when he was with the Blackhawks, they selected a future captain (Jonathan Toews) with No. 3 overall six years ago. Habs are happy there. For a hint at who they’re after:
“You win championships with skill. You need size, too, don’t get me wrong. You need everything. But if you don’t have skill it’s hard to win the big prize. Skill wins,” said Bergevin.