Staal not among Shero's trade plans
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It's entirely possible that Penguins general manager Ray Shero will pull off a major trade during the NHL Entry Draft this weekend at Consol Energy Center.
It seems pretty much out of the question, though, that center Jordan Staal would be part of it.
Shero acknowledged Tuesday that with nine waivers-eligible defensemen projecting onto the team's 2012-13 depth chart, a deal or two to reshape his blue line before next season is almost inevitable. But Staal, Shero said, has done nothing to suggest that he's interested in leaving the Penguins.
That's significant, because if Staal does not agree to a new contract with the Penguins before July 1, 2013, he will be an unrestricted free agent. At that point, he could sign with the team of his choosing and the Penguins would not be entitled to compensation.
Because Staal plays behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there has been speculation around the league that Staal would like to move to a team for which he could fill a more prominent role.
Shero, though, said repeatedly that Staal has expressed nothing of the sort to him and reiterated his desire to work out a new contract with their young center.
"I want to re-sign Jordan," he said. "That's my intention. That's what I'd like to do."
Because the Penguins season ended two months ago and Staal has yet to request a change of venue, Shero seems cautiously optimistic that Staal will be willing to cast his long-term lot with the Penguins.
"If he wanted to move on, he would have told me already," Shero said. "And he hasn't told me that."
Paul Krepelka, Staal's agent, declined to discuss the situation "out of respect to the process as well as the Penguins organization."
Although Shero has no immediate plans to entertain offers for Staal, that hasn't prevented other teams from inquiring about his availability.
"It's part of the business," Shero said. "They call because they don't want to miss out on anything. ... I tell everyone the same thing."
Which is that his objective is to re-sign Staal, not trade him.
The Penguins are not allowed to re-sign Staal or Crosby until July 1, a year before their current contracts run out. Shero said there is no deadline, informal or otherwise, for getting either deal done.
There have been preliminary discussions with the Crosby camp, and Shero said he has "no reservations" about signing Crosby to a long-term deal, even though Crosby had a couple of serious injuries in the past two seasons.
Although the Penguins should be able to negotiate agreements with Crosby and -- if he's willing to stay -- Staal, there are other players for whom the future is less secure.
Wingers Steve Sullivan and Arron Asham, for example, will qualify for unrestricted free agency July 1, and still have not discussed new deals. Shero sounds as if he hopes to keep both, however, and said he expects to speak with their representatives next week.
"Sullivan and Asham have been good players for us," he said. "We have to see exactly where we are after the draft."
Although the Penguins have a number of potential restricted free agents, they have offered most qualifying offers or will do so by the deadline Monday.
Those they intend to re-sign are defensemen Matt Niskanen, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, Alex Grant and Carl Sneep and forwards Eric Tangradi and Keven Veilleux.
Goalie Mattias Modig, forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel and defensemen Alexandre Picard and Boris Valabik are not expected to receive qualifying offers, and thus will become unrestricted free agents.
Niskanen, Bortuzzo and Strait are among the nine -- a total that doesn't include promising prospect Simon Despres -- poised to compete for spots on the Penguins blue line next season. Because NHL teams rarely carry more than seven on their roster, Shero allowed that it's "likely" a defenseman or two will be dealt away.
Shero declined to say whether he has asked any of his defensemen to waive no-trade or no-movement clauses -- veterans Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek each have such contract language -- but confirmed that other clubs have expressed interest in acquiring a defenseman from him.
In addition to those three, Niskanen, Bortuzzo, Strait, Kris Letang, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy would have to clear waivers to get to the Penguins minor league team in Wilkes-Barre. Given the league-wide demand for capable defensemen, they almost certainly wouldn't go unclaimed.
Hence, Shero is hearing from a lot of colleagues around the NHL. And he's willing to talk to them.
"Plenty of other teams know I have nine waiver-eligible defensemen," he said. "They are calling about our defense. ... It's a very difficult position to find."
So are outstanding two-way centers. Which is why Shero continues to hope that teams coveting Staal will be forced to look elsewhere for one.
First Published June 20, 2012 12:18 am