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NHL Trade Match Maker 2012: Dallas Stars And Jordan Staal

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The Dallas Stars are going to be looking to the trade market to make improvements. This series of posts is going to focus on potential Stars targets to identify who, if any, of the big names are good fits in Dallas. If you have any specific requests send a Tweet my way @JoshL1220.

Jordan Staal is a good center. The Stars need good centers. The Penguins have three good centers, and two already make huge money. This string of thoughts leads many to believe that the Stars and Penguins are a match for another trade in the not too distant future.

The question of whether or not the Stars would pursue Staal if he were to be available is silly. Of course they would. The questions are whether or not they could actually pull it off at a reasonable enough price to justify the risk of Staal leaving after the 2013 season, and if he will even become available in the first place.

Follow the jump for 700 more words of wild eyed speculation.

What Is Jordan Staal?

Jordan Staal is a horse. He is the Penguins third line center. He is not a third line center. Staal is a first line elite talent playing on the Penguins third line because two of the three best centers in the league are ahead of him on the depth chart. Both he and Sidney Crosby are unrestricted free agents after the 2013 season so speculation has begun that Staal could be on the way out.

Maybe he is. I don't know. What I do know is that Jordan Staal is probably the most underrated player in the league. Without Staal the Penguins aren't the Penguins. They're still really good, but Staal is an integral piece of what makes the Penguins successful. The presence of Jordan Staal allows the more offensively oriented Evgeni Malkin and Crosby to get gobs of offensive zone ice time. Staal plays some of the most difficult minutes in the entire league and still dominates.

Only nine players in the NHL faced a higher quality of competition than Staal in 2012. The Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski line did. The Olli Jokinen, Curtis Glencross, and Jarome Iginla trio did. Martin Erat and Mike Fisher in Nashville did. Shawn Horcoff in Edmonton also did. That's it. Only the Thornton line performed as well as Jordan Staal, and they started significantly more of their shifts in the offensive zone than Staal did. The man is a horse.

Lest you think Staal is only good defensively, he also has a career 248 points in 431 games. The raw total isn't the most impressive number in the world, but you have to keep in mind the depth the Penguins have. He's been getting second unit powerplay minute totals for his entire career. He would be on the top unit for every other team in the NHL. He was 45th in the NHL among all forwards in even strength scoring despite playing the tough minutes for the Penguins with third line wingers. For a little bit more context he scored at a higher rate at even strength last year than Anze Kopitar and Daniel Sedin.

It's obviously subjective, but you could make a decent case that Staal is also among the top ten centers in the NHL along with his two more heralded teammates.

The Problems

Is he even available? There have been rumblings in the media that he could be once the Penguins sign Crosby to an extension. There are two sides to the "Jordan Staal availability coin" though. First, why would the Penguins willingly make him available even if they sign Crosby?

As I showed above, Staal is a critical piece for the Penguins. He's looking at a raise to six million a year or so which would give the Penguins four forwards making about 30 million. Under the current CBA the cap is going to be approaching 70 million dollars for 2013. They could very easily fill the rest of the roster out with a 70 million dollar cap, and still keep the structure of the team in tact. If the cap does get lowered they would be in trouble.

The other side of the argument is Jordan Staal himself. He's an elite talent playing a third line role (albeit with expanded minutes compared to the normal third liner). He's one year away from dictating exactly where he wants to play, what kind of role he wants, and working towards establishing a legacy of his own. Is it out of the question to think he might want to establish a legacy of his own? He hasn't made any statements that I'm aware of to suggest this is the case, but it's worth considering.

Unfortunately the free agency angle that could potentially make him available also makes acquiring him a huge risk for the Stars. Would he want to be here? The Stars being in a transition period might not be the ideal landing spot for a player of his caliber. He isn't going to be cheap to acquire via trade, but his pending free agency combined with the Stars being in a transitional period adds up to a poor fit for the Penguins should they try to maximize his value in trade.

The Cost

Who knows? Players of his caliber rarely come available, and if they do they have giant contracts to consider (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter). Staal is about to get his, but it will unquestionably be shorter. His pending free agency is likely to lower the price also. Given the Penguins standing in the East they're likely to ask for some current roster help in return. The Penguins have been trying to find wingers for years.

Baseless Speculation

The Penguins are a fit talent-wise for a trade with the Stars. Someone like Steve Ott could slide in on the third line for Pittsburgh to take the tough defensive minutes. The Stars have plenty of prospects on the wing, highlighted by Reilly Smith, Alex Chiasson, Matej Stransky, Scott Glennie, Austin Smith, and Tomas Vincour.

Does a package of Steve Ott, Reilly Smith, and a 2nd round pick get the Penguins talking for a year of control of Jordan Staal? It might, and it also might be of no interest to the Penguins at all.You can bet the Stars will ask about his availability one way or the other though (if they haven't already). The only thing we know for sure is that It's going to take a lot for any team to acquire Staal if he becomes available. If the Stars are fortunate enough to make it happen the cost is going to be painful.