Nearly three years after the Pittsburgh Penguins traded center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes, reports out of Pittsburgh claim the Penguins want him back. More precisely, the man who brought Staal to the Hurricanes wants to bring him back to Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe reports sources claim Penguins GM Jim Rutherford contacted the Hurricanes about the cost of reacquiring the 26-year-old Staal before the March 2 trade deadline. Yohe points out such a move means the Penguins, who have approximately $1 million in cap space, must shed considerable salary to take on the center's $6-million annual cap hit.
Yohe believes such a move likely won't occur until the off-season. Even then, the Penguins face slashing payroll. They have over $55 million invested in just 14 players for 2015-16. Given the uncertainty over the projected cap could be (between $68 to $73 million), they'll have to dump over $6 million to add Staal to their payroll. That still won't leave much wiggle room to re-sign or replace pending UFA defensemen Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff, let alone leave sufficient room to restock the lineup.
Rutherford could offer up Brandon Sutter ($3.3-million annually), who was part of the return the Penguins received for Staal, or aging veteran Chris Kunitz ($3.85-million annually through 2016-17) as part of the deal. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis, however, could request a promising young defenseman like Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta plus a top prospect and a first-round pick.
Staal also has a full no-trade clause. Yohe cites sources claiming he could waive it to return to the Penguins.
Such a move could also depend upon older brother Eric's plans. Yohe cites Jordan's willingness to play with Eric was a significant factor in his trade to the Hurricanes and signing a ten-year, $60-million contract soon after the deal was completed.
Eric, however, becomes eligible for UFA status in July 2016. That's raised questions over his future with the Hurricanes, making him the frequent target this season of trade speculation. If Hurricanes GM Ron Francis decides to shake up his core this summer Eric could be on the trade block, providing Jordan with an incentive to consider a return to Pittsburgh.
As Yohe indicates, such a move is unlikely to happen until the summer, Even then, it's not a certainty, but it will provide considerable fodder for offseason trade rumors.
SEKERA REMAINS HURRICANES HOTTEST COMMODITY
In other Penguin and Hurricanes rumors, TSN's Bob McKenzie includes the Penguins among several suitors (Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning) vying for Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera.
ESPN.com's Craig Custance reports the Hurricanes seek a first-round pick for the 28-year-old blueliner. He feels it could take adding fellow UFAs Jiri Tlusty or Jay McClement in the deal to pull it off. Custance suggests the 'Canes will most likely receive a second-round pick and a prospect for Sekera. He also thinks Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson might be a good fit with the Penguins.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch claims the Penguins could join the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins in pursuit of Arizona Coyotes' center Antoine Vermette. Garrioch also reports the Hurricanes tried to trade goaltender Cam Ward but cannot find any takers for his $6.3-million per season cap hit. He also claims they could consider shopping forward Jeff Skinner in the off-season.
Ward could be easier to move this summer as he has only one season remaining on his contract. Still, the Hurricanes could face picking up part of his remaining salary to make him attractive to other clubs. Skinner possesses excellent offensive skills, but his concussion history could dampen his trade value.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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