Jordan Staal was the Penguins' third-line center. Brandon Sutter is now.
Jordan Staal killed penalties, played well at both ends of the rink. Brandon Sutter is expected to do the same.
But please, coach Dan Bylsma said, don't compare the 23-year-olds much further.
"That's not the point at all," Bylsma said Saturday in the second day of the NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center and less than 24 hours after the Penguins swung a blockbuster trade, sending Staal to join older brother Eric in Carolina in exchange for Sutter, young defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the eighth overall pick, used to select defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
The Penguins also shipped defenseman Zbynek Michalek back to Phoenix in a trade for a third-round choice used to select center Oskar Sundqvist, defenseman Harrison Roupp and goalie Marc Cheverie.
Staal is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound stud and already considered one of the NHL's top two-way forwards. Sutter is a 6-3, 183-pound bulldog.
It's the role, not the skates, that Sutter is expected to fill with Staal gone.
"There wasn't a replacement for Jordan Staal," Bylsma said. "We don't really view Brandon as a replacement. Not having Jordan on our team, there's a void on our team. We felt like we needed to address that in a trade. We feel like we did that
"Is he Jordan Staal? Is he as tall as Jordan Staal? No, he's not the same guy. We're not asking him to be the same guy. But he is a very good person in that role, what we need."
Asked if Staal had outgrown that role with the Penguins, given his upside and the fact that he played behind star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and had limited power-play time, Bylsma thought for a moment.
"That's fair to say," he said.
Sutter, who was the 11th overall draft pick by the Hurricanes in 2007, has his own style, one that he comes by to some extent based on his name and heritage.
He is the son of Brent Sutter, one of six brothers who played in the NHL. One uncle, Darryl, just coached the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup title.
The Sutter brothers were renowned for their hard-edged play but also for their tenacity and ability to make clubs better.
"I played with Ron Sutter [in San Jose]," Bylsma said. "I've spoken with Ron twice [this weekend]. I think [Brandon] has got a lot of Ron in his game.
"He's a little bit bigger body than Ron, but he has grit in that position, a smart and intelligent hockey player. Not maybe totally gifted offensively, but a hard-nosed offensive player. He had three short-handed goals last year driving the net."
Bylsma noted that in games against the Penguins Sutter drew assignments against Crosby and Malkin. He will continue to face the opponents' top offensive players.
Sutter played all 82 games each of the past two seasons. In 286 NHL games, he has 53 goals, 107 points and, despite the sandpaper, a seemingly reasonable 64 penalty minutes.
In 2009-10, he had career highs with 21 goals, 40 points.
Another bonus: He is signed through July 2014 with a salary cap hit of $2,066,667 and then would be eligible for restricted free agency.
Staal was facing unrestricted free agency in July 2013 if not re-signed and had recently rejected a 10-year extension offer from the Penguins.
The Michalek trade, too, was born of contract and roster implications. The Penguins entered the weekend with an unworkable nine defensemen on one-way NHL contracts. The Penguins lowered their payroll by nearly $6 million by dealing Michalek and Staal and adding Sutter.
The club has several young defensemen who could ascend to a full-time NHL role, including Simon Despres, Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo and Joe Morrow, but that doesn't mean Michalek won't be missed. He was a top penalty-killer and shot-blocker.
"That's a tough trade for us," said Penguins assistant Todd Reirden, who oversees the defense. "He did a lot of great things for us for two years."penguins