Major moves could unfold in NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center



Thirty of the finest young hockey players on the planet will be selected in Round 1 of the NHL Entry Draft tonight at Consol Energy Center.

Chances are pretty good they won't be the only ones getting new clubs before the league's business day ends, however.

Although speculation about trades in hockey doesn't always translate to action -- if it did, most teams would experience at least 50 percent roster turnover every season -- there's compelling evidence that some major moves might be about to unfold.

That often appears to be the case when the decision-makers from every team convene, as they have for the draft.

"There are so many players, it seems, whose names are involved in [discussions of] trades," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "That's good for the buzz, but it doesn't mean anything's going to happen."

Shero made it clear earlier this week that center Jordan Staal -- a staple in trade rumors this spring -- is not on the market now, and hasn't been. After that, chatter about where Staal might end up and what he could bring in return dropped precipitously.

That changed a bit Thursday as word circulated that Staal had turned down a 10-year deal offered by the Penguins -- the proposal is believed to have been worth $60 million -- but that move appears to be an effort by Staal to keep his options open, because he did not tell the Penguins he wants to play elsewhere.

Paul Krepelka, Staal's agent, would say only that "Jordan is not prepared to enter into a contract extension at this time."

Of course, that doesn't mean Staal won't be available at some point -- if he makes it clear to the Penguins he doesn't want to re-sign with them, it would be prudent for Shero to deal him before Staal's contract expires in 2013 -- but no one should look for him to switch employers this weekend.

At this time, there is no need for drastic action by either side, unless Staal suddenly requests a trade.

That's not likely, since he's getting married today.

Taking Staal out of the speculation mix, though, is a lot like removing a single log from a bonfire. There's still more than enough fuel to generate smoke and heat.

If the Penguins make a move this weekend, it figures to involve their defense, because they have a surplus of players who can perform at an NHL level and will require waivers to go to the American Hockey League next season.

While Shero is likely to trade at least two defensemen before 2012-13, some potential trading partners might wait to see how they fare in free agency before entering serious negotiations with the Penguins.

The risk those clubs take is that another team will approach the Penguins before then and propose a deal on which Shero cannot pass.

While much of the trade speculation in hockey is spawned by hyperactive imaginations, some is firmly grounded in reality, and several prominent figures look to be in play this weekend.

That group is headlined by, but hardly limited to, forwards Rick Nash (Columbus) and Bobby Ryan (Anaheim), defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary) and goalie Roberto Lungo (Vancouver).

Unless Shero puts together a trade that involves moving up in the draft order, the Penguins will have the 22nd selection tonight.

Odds are they will, as usual, adhere to the philosophy of claiming the highest-rated player remaining on their list when it's their turn to choose.

Most teams embrace that approach, partly because so few prospects are NHL-ready and thus cannot immediately address a short-term need, and partly because front-office people have come to appreciate the merits of collecting "assets" that can make other personnel moves in the future possible.

That is why the Penguins did not balk at choosing defenseman Joseph Morrow and Scott Harrington when they were available in the first and second rounds in 2011.

The Penguins blue line already was crowded with NHL-caliber players and good prospects, but capable defensemen are a valued commodity and there will be a market for them whenever Shero decides to address other areas of need.

There is, however, an asterisk attached to that best-prospect-available credo: The Penguins are a safe bet to claim the highest-rated prospect on their list -- unless he's a goaltender.

Although two -- Malcolm Subban of Belleville in the Ontario Hockey League and Russian Andrei Vasilevski -- are popular picks to go in Round 1, Shero all but ruled out taking a goalie that early.

"I don't think so," he said.. "I don't think that's what we'd do."

Marc-Andre Fleury, 27, hardly is in the twilight of his career, and has three years left on his contract. Still, grooming a capable partner, let alone successor, could take several years.

Nonetheless, the Penguins are among the teams wary of using a high draft choice on a goalie because projecting how they will progress can be even tougher than it is with other players.

"Goalies are really difficult, drafting-wise," Shero said.

A lot tougher, certainly, than predicting that there will be some high-profile veterans traded during the next day or so.

And almost as challenging as predicting precisely which will be the ones to move, and where they will end up.

penguins

For more on the Penguins: Read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg. First Published June 22, 2012 4:00 AM


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