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Darren Dreger: Penguins might want to trade Malkin instead of Staal if necessary

May 1, 2012, 9:25 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders Getty Images

Depending on plenty of factors – especially a new CBA and all that entails – the Pittsburgh Penguins’ much-touted center trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal might just become a dynamic duo. So which one would you let go if you had to decide as their contracts are set to expire (Crosby and Staal’s in 2013, Malkin’s in 2014)?

Plenty of people will add their two cents on this subject, but few carry the weight of TSN’s Darren Dreger, who thought long and hard about pegging Malkin instead of Staal in this radio interview. After complimenting Malkin’s regular season dominance, he wasn’t so sure about how he played against the Philadelphia Flyers in round one.

“For the most part, he wasn’t engaged; he wasn’t invested,” Dreger said. “[Which] Evgeni Malkin are you getting?”

For what it’s worth, here are the three centers full stats from the series:

Staal: six goals, three assists for nine points, +2, 49.5 percent on faceoffs
Malkin: three goals, five assists for eight points, -1, 52.7 percent on faceoffs
Crosby: three goals, five assists for eight points, -3, 54.8 percent on faceoffs

Perhaps Geno had an off game or three, but his stats are remarkably similar to the two other star centers who seemed to mostly get praise or neutral reviews. We can agree to disagree, but I’d say that it’s probably safer to judge Malkin on his all-world-Crosby-included 2011-12 regular season rather than his still pretty decent series. (Which, by the way, was wacky enough to be pretty unreliable from an “assessment” standpoint.)

Get rid of bad contracts instead

The radio interview also features a bit that hopefully will come to GM Ray Shero’s mind well before he considers trading franchise cornerstones: the Penguins basically have $9 million in poorly spent cap room invested in struggling defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. There will also be plenty of players who will come off the cap.

The Penguins can’t bury Martin’s regrettable deal in the minors thanks to his no-movement clause (thanks to Nick Case), but perhaps they can rid themselves of his deal or Michalek’s if the league provides an “amnesty” window after the next CBA goes through. Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll likely get a chance to trade away cap fat instead of breaking up their core.

After all, if you can trade Scott Gomez and Brian Campbell‘s contracts, chances are you can fit Staal, Malkin and Crosby under the same cap ceiling.


That being said, let me ask: if you had to get rid of one of the three – with all things considered – who would you let go? (I’d vote for Staal.)

  1. danaking - May 1, 2012 at 9:36 PM

    I see just about every Penguins game. I’d keep Crosby and Staal. Malkin is a great player, but he can be taken out of his game and may disappear for periods at a time. he’s also prone to taking bad penalties when things aren’t going well. He also seems to play better when Crosby is out of the lineup. Maybe he steps it up when he know he has to be The Man. Staal may not have some of his sick skills, but you get his game every night. His numbers may also go up with some Top 6 caliber wingers flanking him.

    • bmscalise - May 2, 2012 at 1:46 AM

      I agree. And it isn’t just about who is the best player. Staal’s skills are simply less replaceable. Geno gives you 100 pts. of offense on a good year but offers little else. He has decent defensive skills, generally poor face-off numbers (if much better this year), and gets frustrated way too easily. His line spent a ton of time in the defensive zone during the Flyers series, more than any other; despite having the Pens two best wingers, it looked pretty terrible. When adversity hits, Geno tries to be the hero, which means he skates circles around the offensive zone, refusing to give up the puck and rendering his very good line mates useless.

      Staal, on the other hand, is the most important penalty killer on the Pens, arguably the most important leader on the team, outside of Orpik and Sid, and was on pace in a healthy season for 30+ goals and 70 pts. All this in spite of having shut down duties. He’s the ideal 2nd line center to complement Sid, whereas Sid and Geno are both ideal 1st line centers. You build a TEAM, not just a collection of the best players. Everyone recognizes that the Pens issues this year were on defense – not offense. But you trade a Selke nominee?

      And between Sid and Geno, you take Sid. Crosby is still the more complete, more mature player than Geno: people just have short memories. The dude put up 45 pts. in 28 games – after missing more than a year of hockey and walking into a stretch run – and all with crap for wings. He’s the best player in the world, and you don’t trade him. To assume he’ll always be out with concussions is silly (cough, cough, Patrice Bergeron).

      Perhaps I would feel better about trading Staal if a strong, shut-down center was coming the other way – but only if. Geno’s offense is way more replaceable moneyball style.

      • bmscalise - May 2, 2012 at 1:55 AM

        And as a side note – ideally you keep them all. This year you don’t know what the CBA will hold. So you sign the first two guys up – Sid and Staal. This also gives you one more chance to win with this core – something you don’t get by trading Staal a year before his contract is up.

        Then when Geno is up the following year, you sign him if you can. If not, you are in a much, much better situation in terms of trade value, as you aren’t in CBA limbo. The hiccup is, of course, Geno’s no movement clause. But I think this also gives you the best safety net.

  2. jaybertx - May 1, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    Crosby. His bell is still ringing. He’ll always be a target. Sell high.

  3. tkovacs2 - May 1, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    I’d lean towards keeping Crosby and Staal as well for a few reasons.

    1. Crosby and Malkin are closer in their skill sets and what they bring to the table. Staal can put the puck in the net himself, but not nearly at the levels of those two. However, he’s by far the best of the three defensively, and is a fantastic penalty killer. Trading Malkin, you’ll lose a great deal of scoring for sure, but Crosby (if healthy) can replace that. The Pens have nobody who can replace Staal in his many roles right now.

    2. Crosby and Malkin are both going to want max deals in their coming deals (2013 and 2014 respectively). Can they afford to give that kind of cheese to two guys? Staal will get a deal between 6-8 million per, tops.

    3. Malkin really gives them the opportunity to get the highest amount of return. He’s about to win the Hart and is fresh off his 2nd Art Ross. If they’d even consider dealing him, what time is better than now?

    If Gretzky could be traded, Malkin certainly could be.

  4. yoloman - May 1, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    You either know very little about the game of hockey or staal is your much admired older brother. Look everyone will and is entitled to their opinions, however, your reasoning behind which player to keep is comical. Are you basically stating since staal had ONE better playoff series against a very good flyers team hes in and Malkin is out? Firstly, he was basically shadowed by a up and coming star, referenced by a future HOF as a young Ronnie Francis. congrats to him for a marvelous job. You don’t get rid of a talent like Malkin. Most organizations don’t have the luxury to ever experience a talent like him. Like the pens or hate him you have to respect his talent, or he wouldn’t have gotten the attention he did from the flyers shut down line. Staal is a terrific two way player and he played his best hockey as a penguin but let’s not forget the pens wouldn’t have been where they were this year without malkins play. He carried the team on his back all year. So again you’re entitled to your own opinion but at least put a little more in to justify.that is all.

  5. pens87 - May 1, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    @Jaybertx…that is about as likely as the Flyers getting rid of Giroux, Rangers dumping Lundqvist, or Capitals dumping Ovechkin. Lets be real here, Crosby will be the Pens franchise player till he retires.

    That being said, you can’t deny Crosby has had several health issues over his young career. Geno is a great safety net to fall back that most teams don’t have luxury of doing. He is also a 3 time Hart trophy finalist and 2 time Art Ross trophy winner, which I am sure isn’t something that will be so easily be traded away. I know it does appear that he plays stronger when Crosby isn’t in the lineup, but during the 2009 playoffs both he and Crosby played, and he played much better then Sid did. He also played great when Sid came back this year, playoffs excluded of course, but I do have to give Couturier credit from that, he is going to be a hell of problem for teams for years to come. I love Staal, and would really hate to see him go, but I have been worried about next year for the last few seasons. I really hope that we can get them both signed, since we have proven that the 3 center system can and has worked…though I would like to give Crosby’s line Kunitz back, and have a Staal-Malkin-Neal thing going.

    Finally, I agree that we need to free up some cap room by moving some D men, and wouldn’t mind seeing Despres in a penguin uniform full time next season.

  6. dsd3 - May 1, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    Well, you know, he is Russian, so obviously he’s not worth keeping. (This is a sarcastic comment, in case anyone can’t tell)

  7. bcjim - May 1, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    Staal… 6 to 8m?


  8. pdmjr - May 1, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Dreger’s an idiot, Staal is Canadian so Dreger wants Malkin to be traded. There is not a team out there that has enough players that would equal Malkin. Dreger’s Russian aversion gets worse each year
    The Pens and Ray Shero will find a way to keep all three, they all want to play for Pittsburgh.

    These Canadian cement heads need to worry about things up there and leave the US teams alone. Are there any Canadian teams in the playoffs? No, because they think like Dreger.

    • kitshky - May 2, 2012 at 12:39 AM

      I was going to reply with the stats about how many Canadians are running NHL franchises and how many Stanley Cup winning GM’s, Coaches, and Scouts are Canadian … then I decided you’re just not worth it.

      This is literally the only place I have ever seen such anti-Canadian sentiment in my entire life, whole thing makes me scratch my head.

  9. bobhpine - May 1, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    I agree with the notion that if you get rid of Martin and michalek you can keep all of them…maybe you have to package a high draft pick or another decent player whose stock will never be higher (see Matt Cooke), but I think it’s folly to assume you have to trade one of them. Crosby would bring the greatest return, Staal the least. But they aren’t trading Crosby. So I’d trade Staal…to Saskatchewan

  10. malkinrulez - May 1, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    If one has to go it would be staal, with Sid being one hit away from being out for substantial time you have to keep geno who can carry the load. To judge someone on 6 games is foolish.

  11. stakex - May 1, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    It wouldn’t shock me to see Malkin be the odd man out here. Going to be hard to keep two players who are going to want maxed out contracts. Staal might not be half the player Malkin is, but he would be a solid second line center… and his new contract would be far less (perhaps even half the size) then Malkins, giving the Pens more money to add depth. Not to mention for as good of season he had, and how good Malkin can be… you never know which Malkin is going to show up year to year. Its just as likely he will have a so-so season next year as it is he will have a great year. So the Pens might just think twice about throwing a massive contract at him.

    • pajabroni - May 1, 2012 at 11:58 PM

      I just want people to know that 87 and 71 will not be asking for maxed out deals…this isnt even the summer for 71 to be signed. It is about 87 (who will probably stay at 8.7 million since NHL money doesnt really affect him too much with his endorsement money as the face of hockey) and 11.

      Also at the end of the season it was clear that shero was trying not to deflate Paul Martin’s value by saying he wasn’t thaaat bad according to his +/-. Paul Martin has played his last game in a penguins uniform. Look for him to be moved and/or Michalek. The one not traded with be used as the amnesty contract if possible. The penguins young defensemen coming up are more than capable of shouldering the load. Orpik, Letang, Lovejoy, Engelland, Depres, Strait, Bortuzzo, Morrow are a pretty good top 8

  12. pftbillsfan - May 1, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    Sid the kid….name your price. The return would be historically big from whichever franchise you wanted. Keep Malkin, Staal and your new host of players for a long run. Sid is great and awesome to watch but concussions are concussions

  13. mianfr - May 1, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    I’m not even the biggest Staal fan in the word, but I’d have to say that Crosby is the one to go of the three.

    He just requires far too much cap space given the injury risk. He might be the premier talent in hockey, but you have to go with the guy who gives you 75 games.

  14. bethgoesglobal - May 1, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    Crosby- he’s a very expensive liability. I’m not convinced yet that he’s back to his form, and players are going to continue to push him around as much as they- this is hockey after all. If he takes another hard blow to the head he could be done. Yes, my loyalties lay with the Caps but there’s no denying that Crosby Rocks!

    Malkin- he’s up for MVP for a reason. The man is a beast- big, dynamic, highly skilled hands, and as others have said, he carried the Pens much of the season. Although he has spent some significant time being injured himself, I trust his health A Lot more than Crosby’s at this point.

    and finally, Staal- this kid is special. He’s got great “hockey sense” as they say, he makes smart plays and is just a really good skater which is an extremely important, all under appreciated, asset. Probably the biggest reason to try and keep Staal is that he is young (ok so he’s only 1 yr younger than Crosby, and 2yrs than Malkin). He’s still developing so his play should only get better- why would anyone trade away a player that can keep their team a perennial powerhouse for the foreseeable future.

    I don’t think the Pens would ever trade Crosby, much like the Caps trading away Ovi, they’re franchise players, like it or not. However, Crosby is a pricey player with an uncertain future (how much are his medical bills anyway- add that to his paycheck). I just think Malkin and Staal provide more stability and will continue to be a more reliable duo than the great-but damaged Crosby.

    • bmscalise - May 2, 2012 at 2:00 AM

      So when Sid was MVP, he wasn’t MVP for a reason?

      • bethgoesglobal - May 2, 2012 at 9:28 AM

        The key word your comment is “WAS”. He also Had a clear, healthy head- not so much now though

  15. emperorzero - May 1, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Of the three, Crosby is the one I would move. You can complain about Malkin in the playoffs this year, but he has two Art Ross Trophies and more imortantly – a Conn Smythe Trophy. Staal from an economic stand point you keep. Defense is important, but doesn’t get paid well, and he can contribute points. Crosby has the concussion problems, but I bet the Penguins could still land a good haul for him because he will sell out arenas.

    Now, if I have to pick between Staal and Malkin, then I move Malkin. In theory, the Pens could clean out someone’s farm for him. Again, I keep Staal because he’ll be cheaper.

    • pajabroni - May 2, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      Crosby is the heart of this team. He will not be going anywhere.

      Its quite obnoxious for people to say that crosby has concussion problems. Does Malkin have ACL problems? He does but he had a good season to squash those who would say that. Take a look at Crosby’s PPG since coming back…he has done nothing but produce.

      With the summer in store, look for him to get better. The kid is a year away from his prime. With a Stanley Cup, Art Ross, Hart Trophy and Olympic Gold Medal…its fair to argue that he won’t disappoint NHL fans…unless youre rooting against his assault on the league.

      • jaybertx - May 2, 2012 at 8:48 PM

        ACL is a totally different boat than a concussion. While you can’t “guarantee” that someone won’t tear an ACL again, it’s not due to the strength of their ACL — especially if it’s replaced.

        Comparing ACLs to brain injuries is like comparing carpentry to stem cell research.

        I hope he does get better and has a long career but if you’re playing averages with these three guys, he’d be the one I’d trade.

  16. ballsohardu - May 2, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    Crosby. One hit away from never playing again. Too delicate. Need durable players in the nhl

  17. atwatercrushesokoye - May 2, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Funny I can still remember July 1st, 2010 when TSN analysts (Pierre Maguire in particular) were falling all over themselves talking about how the Martin and Michalek signings were the best of the day and how this was just another example of the Penguins being the most savvy organization and how multiple cups would surely follow.

    Guess signing two average (at best) defensemen to bloated contracts wasn’t the best idea!

  18. nyynygnjd - May 2, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    Copying and pasting the word “derp” a couple hundred times would have saved some effort for Darren and made just about as much sense.

  19. ray2013 - May 2, 2012 at 1:44 AM

    Listening to Oilers radio, there has been interest in potentially trading the first overall for immediate help to improve. The Oilers would be interested in Malkin or Staal. They have a bevy of young, talented players, and first overall pick. Helps the Penguins with young cheap talent. Helps the Oilers to make a step forward immediately.

    The only hold-up would be the fact that the contracts are expiring soon; you don’t give up Yakupov and, say Gagner, for Staal for one year, with Staal moving on in 2013.

  20. wheresdapuck - May 2, 2012 at 6:26 AM

    You want to trade the highest paid, least producing asset = Crosby. He will spend another sitting on IR – get rid of him now and open up your salary cap!

  21. sjsharks66 - May 2, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    All 3 are great but I would keep Crosby and Malkin. With Crosby getting all off season to rest he will come back and have over 100 points same for Crosby. Also staal does not make James Neal a 40 goal scorer like Malkin did.

  22. going4iton4th - May 2, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    It’s a shame that you would need to part with any of them but I would lean towards Malkin. He didn’t seem to be as engaged in the Philly series as he should have been–maybe it’s time for a change of scenery. I think the Penguins need a top shelf defenseman in the Paul Coffey/Larry Murphy mold but those types of guys don’t grow on trees obviously. I would definitely keep on eye on Ryan Suter or Weber as far as free agents—you get them in the fold and you can fix a lot of problems on defense!

  23. maalea - May 2, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    I love how people are on Staal’s jock.

    They are killing Gino for a bad series but The Flyers put up all time numbers on the PP. Who is the Pen’s top PK forward?

    I think Staal should take some heat for the special teams failure.

  24. bihler7 - May 2, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Wow, I must say I am impressed by you James O’Brien, you read my thoughts exactly about getting rid of the high priced defensemen instead of one of Malkin, Staal, Crosby.

    This is how I look at it. Get rid of Martin and Michalek, trade them for a bag of pucks I do not care but get that $9 mil off your hands, it can be done, and easily with the amnesty clause which I guarantee is happening. Resign Niskanen to a $3 mil a year contract as he played great this year was just real banged up in the playoffs and Despres comes up only making $840k. So now the top 6 is Letang, Orpik, Niskanen, Engelland, Despres, Lovejoy. Now I think we all know Lovejoy doesn’t cut it on a nightly basis and is a great 7th dman so find someone in the $3 mil range that is a stay at home defensemen who is rugged (man I miss you Rob Scuderi only making $3.4 mil a year).

    $3 mil + $3mil + $840k gives you $6.84 mil saving you $2.16 from the $9 you got back by ridding yourself of Michalek and Martin. Sid is going to resign at the same money because he is risk to injury and he knows it. Give Staal a $1.5 mil raise to $5.5 a year and you still have a little money left over after what I talked about.

    Furthermore, it is time to load up the top 6 Pittsburgh The means next year top six must include Staal as 2nd line center and Malkin needs to hit the wing. Top 6 combine them however you want Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, Staal, Dupuis. Ideally I like Neal-Crosby-Kunitz, Malkin-Staal-Dupuis. Third Line Cooke-Jeffrey-TK, Fouth Line Adams-Vitale-Tangradi (restricted resign him on the cheap $1mil he is starting to get it).

    I just ripped off the entire roster for you and from the numbers on Cap Geek leaves the Penguins with about $ 6 mil in cap space for next year having to add a backup goaltender and some veteran depth. They won’t spend all $6mil because of Staal getting a raise after next year and if Crosby and Malkin want a little raise there is some room.

    What you think?

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