While I can’t imagine the Penguins wanting to trade Jordan Staal within the division, it might be the best place to get a solid return. As a physical force, scoring threat, playoff veteran, and penalty kill guru there are a lot of teams in the east who need one or more of those abilities. The two major problems are pending realignment, and of course the idea of having to face him yearly in the playoffs.
I can’t see Brian Burke failing to go after Staal unless he’s specifically told “no, over my dead body” by Ray Shero and company. His teams is in desperate need of a center who can play on the top two lines, win faceoffs, be defensively responsible, show up and be effective any night there’s a game. The playoff experience would be a bonus. None of the Maple Leafs young nucleus of drafted or AHL promoted talent has any playoff experience, and there’s not a great deal of it in the elder trade pieces as well.
It’s unlikely the Boston Bruins would get in on the chase, unless it involved moving out Bergeron (NMC), Krejci (NTC) or they were working from the assumption Horton would not return and they wanted to put either Staal or Seguin (both?) permanently at right wing.
The Carolina Hurricanes would in theory be a great place for a family reunion, but that team is far more in need of spending 6+ million on a top defenseman than on even a high quality forward. The return would almost certainly be mostly in draft picks since the depth of the Canes farm system isn’t stellar. A plus for the Canes aside from the presumed chemistry of the two Staal brothers would be having two quality forwards who could play right win or center effectively depending on the needs of the team.
Both the Florida Panthes and Buffalo Sabres would make interesting destinations. Staal’s tenacity would be a nice compliment to either system, and each team has reason to beef up their center position. Each has also shown an increased willingness to pursue bigger contracts and names the last two seasons.
The Winnipeg Jets are still an enigma. Their coach made a heartfelt plea for offensive reinforcement during the season, and was ignored. We don’t know if this is because of the market prices that saw Paul Gaustad go for a 1st round pick, a lack of suitable pieces, or simply management and ownership having no desire to make changes. Arguably this is the team he could have the most positive impact on. As close as they came to making the playoffs, with a little good health and maturity from other members of the cast, the Jets could see themselves rather busy in the second half of April and later.