Q: With his size and skating, Jordan Staal puts me in mind of Keith Primeau. It wasn't until his fifth season that Primeau started developing into a consistent 30-goal scorer, and that was after some time in the American Hockey League. It is time for fans to drop the idea of getting rid of Staal unless, in two or three more years, he's not improving, but that does not seem likely at all.
Steve, Boone, Iowa
MOLINARI: Seems strange to say about a guy who has scored seven goals during the past half-dozen games and got 29 as an 18-year-old rookie, but Staal still hasn't proven that he can produce goals consistently at this level, and it's possible that he never will. After all, you're talking about someone who averaged only about one goal every 3.6 games during two seasons of major-junior hockey.
Primeau, for what it's worth, never really became a reliable 30-goal man in the NHL. During 15 seasons (or parts thereof) at this level, he hit that plateau only three times, and never got more than 34. That didn't detract from his considerable value, though, and Primeau, who had picked up a reputation for being a management headache and playoff underachiever early in his career, matured into one of the game's better two-way centers before concussion-related problems forced him to retire in 2006. He earned a special place in the hearts of Penguins partisans by scoring the goal that ended the five-overtime game at Mellon Arena during the second round in 2000.
The Penguins certainly could do worse than to have Staal develop into a Primeau-like performer -- he certainly has the size to do so -- and it's hardly out of the question that he'll be able to. Or, for that matter, even that he'll ultimately take his game a notch higher than Primeau did.
Staal isn't going to maintain that goal-scoring pace he's been on lately -- if he could, there'd be 29 teams lined up to offer him the maximum amount allowed by the collective bargaining agreement when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer -- but he is just 20 years old and hasn't come close to realizing his potential. That is why, even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ahead of him on the depth chart, the Penguins will do everything possible to retain Staal.
Yes, he could end up as the centerpiece of an extremely attractive trade offer to address some of the Penguins' personnel needs and yes, the compensation package of draft choices they would get if he'd sign elsewhere next summer would be quite generous, but Staal already does too much -- and has the possibility of doing so much more as he develops in coming seasons -- for the Penguins to consider parting with him unless there is no viable alternative (presumably for salary-cap reasons).
Q: If a team is shorthanded and there is a delayed penalty against the shorthanded team and the other team scores a goal during the delay, how does all that sort out?
Kyle Chase, Pittsburgh
MOLINARI: In that situation, the player (or first player, if the goal scored came during a five-on-three power play) who was in the penalty box when the goal was scored is freed, and the player against whom the delayed call was made goes in to serve a full two-minute penalty.
Q: Just wondering, how is Jaromir Jagr doing in Russia?
Michael Litzenberger, Blandon, Pa.
MOLINARI: Fairly well, at least based on his offensive output:
Jagr, who signed a two-year contract with Avangard Omsk in July, has 15 goals and 17 assists during his first 27 games in the new Kontinental Hockey League, successor to the Russian Super League.
His season, though, was marred by the death of Alexei Cherepanov, the New York Rangers' first-round draft choice in 2007, during a game Oct. 13. Jagr and Cherepanov reportedly had become relatively good friends during their brief time together, and were talking on the bench when Cherepanov collapsed.