The 23-year-old Staal helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009 and was ready to enter the final year of his contract but balked at signing a lengthy extension. Rather than continue negotiating, the Penguins shipped him to the Hurricanes, where Staal will join his brother, Eric. Carolina also has Jared Staal — currently playing in the American Hockey League.
“I didn’t want to trade him,” Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero said. “My goal was to try to sign him to a contract to remain with the Penguins … but it just became more apparent as we talked about it internally that trading him was the right thing to do.”
The Penguins weren’t done dealing. Shortly after the first round ended, they agreed to send defenseman Zbynek Michalek to the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Harrison Ruopp, goalie Marc Cheverie, and a third-round pick. Michalek played five seasons with Phoenix before signing with the Penguins in July 2010.
Staal and Michalek were two of the biggest names on the move, but not the only ones. The Washington Capitals dealt a second-round pick and center Cody Eakin to the Dallas Stars for center Mike Ribiero. The 32-year-old Ribiero tied for second on the Stars last season in points, scoring 18 goals to go with 45 assists in 74 games.
Earlier Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers shipped backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for three draft picks — a second-rounder and fourth-rounder in this draft and a fourth-rounder next year. The New York Islanders also acquired veteran Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks for New York’s second-round selection in 2013.
On a day when speculation about the future of Columbus star Rick Nash abounded, it was the Penguins who provided the draft with a jolt by sending the popular Staal packing at the event held in their home arena.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hinted at the impact moments before announcing the trade.
Shero thanked Staal for his contributions to the franchise before taking Pouliot as the capacity crowd at Consol Energy Center roared its approval. The move is a stunning end to a hugely successful run in Pittsburgh for Staal, taken with the sixth pick in the 2006 draft.
Staal quickly developed into a linchpin of Pittsburgh’s meteoric rise through the league. Teaming with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Staal gave the Penguins arguably the best trio of centers in the NHL. He was a valuable penalty-killer who developed a deft touch around the net in recent years. He scored a career-high 25 goals in the 2011-12 season despite missing 20 games due to injury.
The move gives Carolina an elite young forward they hope will continue to flourish alongside his big brother.