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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Canes acquire Jordan Staal on draft day

Posted by on Sat, Jun 23, 2012 at 6:24 AM

Cue up Sly and the Family Stone, Canes marketers. It's a Staal family affair in Raleigh.

In the league's biggest deal on the first day of the draft in Pittsburgh, Carolina acquired center Jordan Staal from the Penguins for center Brandon Sutter, minor league defenseman Brian Dumolin, and the eighth overall pick.

First and foremost, Carolina makes one of its franchise cornerstones happy. Jordan is the third Staal in the organization now. Younger brother Jared plays for the Canes' American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte.

Given how dreary a year captain Eric had this past season, when the locker room could at times be mistaken for a buffet-less wake, the morale boost expected here is significant. Carolina has certainly been missing some kind of spark. This might be it.

In a more concrete respect, Carolina also upgrades their offensive punch. Given the second-line minutes he never got in Pittsburgh, 35 goals is a realistic target for Staal. He potted 25 this past season in 62 games. Staal's career high is 29 goals during his rookie season six years ago.

"Jordan is an elite two-way player who possesses a rare combination of speed, size, scoring ability and defensive responsibility," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement released by the team. "For his young age, he has a wealth of NHL experience, including winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. And he is obviously a natural fit for our team in joining our captain, his older brother Eric."

The deal went down in the last couple of hours before Rutherford was slotted to stride to the podium to make the team's first-round pick. And it wasn't the only change in status yesterday for Staal. He got married on Friday, as well.

Rutherford went on to thank Sutter for his fine play in Raleigh. An underrated, defense-first center, Sutter's dependability and skill, both at even strength and while shorthanded, are very similar to Staal's. The goals haven't been there, however, although some of that could be attributed to the rigid role that former coach Paul Maurice had Sutter fill, a fact that Maurice always took pains to point out.

The Canes also take on some salary with this deal. Sutter had two years remaining on a deal with a salary cap hit of just a hair over $2 million annually. Jordan's contract, with one year left, doubles that cap number.

Pittsburgh, which cleared enough salary between this deal and another trade to become a major player when unrestricted free agency opens July 1, drafted defender Derrick Pouliot with the first-round pick. He's a compact, offensive defenseman who seems destined for a power-play point with the Penguins.

Rounds two through seven of the draft occur on Saturday in Pittsburgh. Carolina picks twice in the second round and three times in the fourth.

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