It was the trade Ray Shero insisted he didn't want to make.
Not unless he had to.
"I always felt, up until maybe some point today, that Jordan [Staal] would be back with us next year," Shero said late Friday. "I didn't want to trade him."
But when he decided the time to consider moving Staal had come, it didn't take long to put the trade together.
Shero, the Penguins general manager, worked out the finer points with Jim Rutherford, his counterpart with Carolina, in about 2 1/2 hours.
During that time, they agreed that Staal would go to the Hurricanes in exchange for center Brandon Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and Carolina's first-round draft choice, which the Penguins used to claim defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
"It was certainly a fair hockey deal," said Rutherford, who had opened discussions with Shero around 4:20 p.m. Friday and had an agreement by 6:45.
Shero's makeover of the Penguins continued when he sent defenseman Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix for a third-round choice, defenseman Harrison Roupp and goalie Marc Cheverie.
That deal removes a $4 million cap hit from the books, making it possible for them to be aggressive in free agency next month.
The Staal deal was announced when it was the Hurricanes' turn to use the No. 8 choice in the first round. News of the trade was greeted with raucous applause at Consol Energy Center, and the decision to use the draft pick on Pouliot went over well, too.
He is an offensive defenseman who had 11 goals and 48 assists in 72 games with Portland of the Western Hockey League. That's the same team that produced defenseman Joseph Morrow, the Penguins' first-round draft choice in 2011.
"We really liked Pouliot," said Shero, who described him as a future quarterback of the power play.
The centerpiece of the deal, though, at least in the short term, is Sutter, who might be plugged into Staal's spot on the third line. Sutter also is an accomplished penalty-killer.
"Brandon had to be part of the deal," Shero said. "[Without] that, we weren't making the deal. ... We love what he brings."
Sutter is the son of longtime NHL player and coach Brent Sutter, and had 17 goals and 15 assists in 82 games with Carolina in 2011-12.
"You look at Pittsburgh now and to replace Jordan Staal with him, he's a great fit for them," Rutherford said.
Sutter, who was a first-round draft choice in 2007, has two years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $2,066,667. He will be a restricted free agent when the deal expires, at least under the terms of the current CBA.
Dumoulin, 20, was Carolina's second-round draft choice in '09. He had seven goals and 21 assists in 44 games at Boston College this season.
"We've always liked Dumoulin. He should be able to play in the top four or five [defenseman] for a number of years," Rutherford said.
Nearly two hours after the Staal trade was announced, the Penguins invested their second first-round pick, the 22nd overall, in Olli Maatta, a rugged and responsible defenseman from London of the Ontario Hockey League. He had five goals and 27 assists in 58 games with the Knights.
The Penguins had hoped to re-sign Staal, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season, but he told them he was not interested in agreeing to an extension, at least not at this point.
Shero had stressed as recently as this week that he was not going to abandon efforts to work out an agreement with Staal, but changed course Friday, when he had what Rutherford described as their first conversation since Rutherford came to town Tuesday.
Carolina had, weeks earlier, emerged as the destination of choice for Staal, who was married Friday, because his older brother, Eric, plays there. Rutherford said he has not discussed a new contract with Jordan Staal, but seems confident that he will get it done.
"I hope so," he said. "For many years, the family said the brothers wanted to play together."
Staal was the first player Shero drafted after he replaced Craig Patrick as general manager in '06 and, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, was part of the "Big Three" centers around which Shero built his team.
Shero's commitment to being strong down the middle is part of the reason he was reluctant to trade Staal, and he clearly did not anticipate that the Staal situation would be resolved this weekend.
"I didn't think [a trade] was going to happen, actually," he said.
But it did, and now Shero can focus on other issues. Rounds 2-7 of the draft today. Deciding which of his unrestricted free agents, like Steve Sullivan and Arron Asham, should be offered contracts before July 1. Working out a contract with Crosby, a process that already has begun.
Still, the Staal trade might be the defining moment of the offseason, even though it's something Shero had hoped wouldn't be necessary.
At least not until the trade began to come together late Friday afternoon.
"It's a funny thing to say," Shero said. "But it just felt right to do."
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Dave Molinari: email@example.com and Twitter @molinaripg. First Published June 23, 2012 4:00 AM