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What would you be willing to give up for the Leafs to obtain Jordan Staal?

I realize that, at this time of year, most discussions around the future of the Maple Leaf franchise have to do with speculative notions.  This includes the question:  which of the promising prospects in the system already with the Marlies might we see promoted to the big club as early as next season?  This is a rational thought, as these are guys that we have under contract already, or will re-sign shortly.  And we can see with our own eyes how they are performing in the current Calder Cup playoffs at the American Hockey League level.

But we have also moved into more of a "fantasy" realm.  Thus we have also discussed at some length, in this space, the possibility of the Leafs making a play for any number of UFA’s (Semin, Suter, etc.) or players who will likely be traded this summer (Nash, Luongo…) by their current teams.

But one of the more intriguing names that is seemingly “out there” is one of the most enticing of all—Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal.  The talk around Staal’s future is not going away, which tells me that there is something to this particular notion.

Now, we all understand that there is an obvious (and historical) penchant in Leaf world to, if not assume, at least suspect that every living, breathing high-end hockey player out there will somehow become a Leaf, either as a UFA signing or in a blockbuster trade of some description.  Of course, Brian Burke has helped that fantasy along since his arrival in Toronto (now going on four years ago) by adroitly bringing Dion Phaneuf and the precocious young Jake Gardiner into the fold for precious little going the other way.  This doesn’t even take into account the man we thought we were taking on as a mere salary dump, Joffrey Lupul, who become an NHL star again in his first full season with the Leafs.  And that’s to Burke’s credit, that he could manage to bring in such valuable assets without giving away much of anything on the then current rosters that would have had any long-term impact on the franchise.

Our GM has also added the uber-talented Phil Kessel, so bringing in big names is not outside his grasp, clearly.  And Burke has also built up hopes around what “could be”, including publicly throwing out the idea of moving up in the draft a few years ago to get at John Tavares.  Bottom line?  We are accustomed to being tantalized.

Yes, as Leaf loyalists, we have almost always had this notion that because we’re the Leafs, guys want to come here.  Mostly, it’s that we just want them here.  Hey,  I’ve often expressed frustration that some of the really good players I’ve wanted to see play with the Leafs over the past many decades either never got here (which only makes sense; you don’t always get what you want) or did end up with the blue and white, but unfortunately, it was after their “best before” date. (Pierre Pilote, Gary Sabourin, Dan Maloney, Dale McCourt, Brad Maxwell and Al Secord are just a few examples over the years of fine players who arrived here just a bit too late in their careers to have the kind of long-term impact they would no doubt have had if we had acquired them just a bit sooner…For his part, Pilote was a wonderful defenseman, perhaps the best in the league in the early and mid 1960s.  But he retired after just one un-satisfying season in Toronto. At left, in one of those classic Harold Barkley photos, Pilote is in action with the Leafs against Montreal's Jean Beliveau.)

In any event, I completely understand that all kinds of things would have to transpire for the Penguins to even consider moving Staal in the first place.  He still has a year to go on his contract with the Pens at a “modest” 4 million a season—high for a third- line player, but likely a salary that pales compared with what he will command as a premier UFA in the summer of 2013.

The questions are obvious and many, the simplest being:  do the Penguins even want to move him? (The only logical reason they would is the cap, and the presence of two other superstars, Malkin and Crosby, on the high-priced roster.)  But clearly, Staal has a winning pedigree, has already helped the Penguins win a Stanley Cup and, at 23, has many peak years ahead of him in the league.

It doesn’t take much in the way of projecting to suppose he would be a first or second-line center on many other very good NHL teams.  (Hey, I’m guessing most of us would agree that he has s standing invitation to assume the number-one spot here in Toronto if he is so inclined…)  While he might be more disposed to play with one of his brothers, either  in Carolina or New York, my guess is his strong preference would be to stay exactly where he is now—all things being equal.

That said, could he in fact be in play this summer, if the Pens are looking to clear cap space or pre-empt losing him for nothing a year from now? (A quick aside, it may seem like hockey heresy to even suggest it, but if I were in Ray Shero’s shoes in Pittsburgh, the guy I would look to trade just might be Malkin.  As gifted as the guy is, if I had to pick Penguin centers based on grit and heart, I would probably opt to retain Crosby and Staal.  But that’s just me.  And I recognize that Crosby is in a tough spot, with regard to long-term health issues…)

If we buy into the thought that he will become too rich for Pittsburgh’s blood, and thus transport ourselves to a fantasy world where a 23 year-old star center is potentially available, what is your strategy?  Do you hope  he reaches free-agency and then make him a wealthy Maple Leaf (if he is even interested in playing closer to his Thunder Bay-based family of origin), or would you make an aggressive play to trade for him this summer, so you can try to sign him to a long-term contract before he becomes a UFA and thereby see him become a core player (and possibly a first-line center) for the next half-dozen seasons in Toronto?

If so, what would you be prepared to give, to entice Shero and the Penguins—more than, say, other teams that also have assets to spare—in the hope of obtaining a bona fide emerging star who is a legitimate impact player all season long, including the playoffs- when it matters most?

We can be certain of this:  unlike the players I mentioned above, Staal would be a Leaf in the very prime of his career.  We wouldn't have to worry about getting him too late.

Send your thoughts along….


  1. I like Jordan Staal, he brings a good set of two-way abilities for a centre, which the Leafs haven't seen in awhile. However, if we acquired Staal, some of those assets would have been needed to get a goalie like Luongo or Thomas. As much as I like what Staal brings, a number one goalie is much more vital

  2. You make a really good point, Killer Sundin. Thomas or Luongo may well be on the market this summer, and I know how badly many fans want to see a proven, experienced goalkeeper here.

    While I absolutely agree that it's crucial to have reliable goaltending, and a guy that can steal games, too, Staal is a very attractive idea. (How realistic it is is something else entirely...) He can flat out play, and is just heading into his best years.

    I guess it's too much to wonder if the Leafs could manage both- a front-line centre and a goalie!

    Thanks Killer Sundin. Good post.

  3. I don't think we have the assets to acquire both. If Luongo doesn't work, then I'm all for picking up someone like Harding or Vokoun in the free agency, then getting a centre. Unfortunately, the Leafs need to get creative, and I'd rather see them expend their energy on a tender.

  4. Harding seems to be a name that's out there as well, Killer Sundin. And you're right, you need the right asset mix to be able to make those kinds of moves. Thanks again.

  5. I would LOVE to have Jordan Staal in the line-up, who wouldn't? Young, proven and still wanting the chance to be 'the guy.'
    Of course, Pens would want a lot for this guy, but they can't keep him, Crosby and Malkin under the cap. Who would the Leafs give up to get him that wouldn't cripple the organization even further?
    Wistful look Pittsburgh way.

  6. You're right, Sportsgrl- who wouldn't?!

    Whether the Pens would ever part with him, (though his name keeps surfacing out there...), I don't know. And it would take a lot, for sure, in terms of Leaf assets going the other way.

    By the way, I encourage people to visit your very good blog site at


  7. How would people feel it the trade revolved around Lupul and Staal. Pittsburgh needs wingers, and have lacked true talent that isn't miscast beside Crosby or Malkin. Although one could argue adding Neal was enough and make due with Kunitz, and the other two drastic drop-off in talent they slot on a given night.

    Toronto has lacked centre so both teams get something they have lacked. Once again one could argue with Neal, there is no longer a need.

    Staal and Lupul both are UFAs to be the same year so both teams take a risk of "losing their acquire" shortly after.

    Lupul wouldn't command much more than his 4.25 to resign but Staal would probably cost up to $6M per which Pittsburgh couldn't afford behind Crosby and Malkin. Let it be known Staal has also stated he wants an increased role which would be hard to get if the trio remains.

    Granted Staal is the better player, the Leafs would have to add more, how much more is uncertain. I know Michael you may cringe with the next name - Gunnarsson.

    I think the Pens are lacking that safe and steady well-rounded defenseman that could play any situation.

    If this was the cost to get Staal - Lupul and Gunnarsson, I would be willing to accept.

    PS. I've traded to get Staal on my team since NHL 08 :)

  8. Ah, Gunnarsson- you no doubt anticipated my response, Skill2Envy. He is indeed a guy (on a very short list, I should add) that I really did not want to see the Leafs part with. You know my stance on trading off defensemen, especially a guy like Gunner just reaching his prime.

    But there are exceptions to every "rule". If we're talking about a player like Staal, it may be something to consider.

    If I had to guess, my sense is there are a few teams who would offer up some very appealing packages for Staal. Whether the Leafs could - or would be willing to - match or surpass those offers, that may be the question.

    (Maybe you'll have better luck picking up Staal this fall! Where are we now, NHL 13?).

    Thanks Skill2Envy.

  9. I am not sure Staal is something the Leafs can get, only because the Leafs and Pens seem to be in similar cap positions for next season. I can't see a deal being made unless it is a close dollar-for-dollar thing. For 2012-13, the Leafs have 17 players at $56.7, the Pens have 18 players signed at $59.5. I do like Staal, but as many have said, it does not address the goalie issue.

    I will throw this completely random idea out there though...
    I wonder if Burke should be targetting Fleury, not Staal, from PIT. I realize most Pens fans would say it's out of the question. Some Leaf fans wouldn't like it either. But, MAF's playoff numbers are:
    06/07: 3.76, .880
    07/08: 1.97, .933 (finals)
    08/09: 2.61, .908 (SC)
    09/10: 2.78, .891
    10/11: 2.52, .899
    11/12: 4.63, .834

    Some of those are pretty ugly. Note he is under .900 sv% every year but the 2 when the Pens made the Finals. You can't pin it all on MAF. But, I wonder if there isn't a scenario where PIT made a play for Tim Thomas. TT would represent something of a culture change over MAF, he is also a playoff performer, perhaps interested in winning with another team. You'd have to think BOS won't sit Rask forever.

    The Leafs would get a goalie with a proven pedigree, a young veteran, affordable at $5M for the next 3 years. MAF is doubted sometimes, but no denying he is a very good goalie (despite my tearing him down with numbers).

    Certainly that is contingent on PIT being willing to part with MAF, and BOS parting with TT. Maybe not likely, but it'd be an interesting senario if it played out.

  10. I appreciate the breakdown on Fleury, Mark. I think the scenario you present is entirely reasonable. (That said, I guess we can never really forecast this things. The Leafs may be thinking about players none of us is even talking about...)

    I'm certainly not as down on Fleury as some are. As I said here a while back, I was not a big Fleury guy in his early days out of junior, but he has grown on me over time. I recognize that the numbers are not great, but I thought he had some great moments in the playoffs this spring, though clearly he didn't steal a lot of games for the Pens.

    The Thomas thing is very interesting, too. I sense he is definitely going somewhere, and there have to be some contending teams interested. His going to Pittsburgh would be something to see.

    From the Leafs standpoint, you have to believe they will talk about Harding, Luongo, maybe even Fleury, as you mentioned.

    Good stuff as always- thanks Mark.