New bride, new team, older brother: Jordan Staal excited about opportunity with Hurricanes

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

RALEIGH, N.C. - It's been an unforgettable weekend for Jordan Staal. First a new bride, then a new team with his older brother.

Staal was midway through his wedding reception when he found out the Pittsburgh Penguins had traded him to his big brother's team—the Carolina Hurricanes.

After Staal turned down Pittsburgh's offer of a 10-year contract extension earlier in the week, the Penguins pulled off the biggest blockbuster at the NHL draft Friday night when they dealt him for centre Brandon Sutter, defenceman Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 pick.

"I don't think we knew when we were planning our wedding date that it was on the draft day and something like that would happen, but that's the way it goes sometimes," Staal said Saturday during an impromptu conference call with reporters.

"I found out, basically, in the middle of my reception," he added. "It was definitely some tough news to hear, but obviously, still very excited about it. With my teammates, it got a little emotional, but they knew a lot of good things could come out of this."

Including the chance to skate on the same team with oldest brother Eric Staal—the captain of the Hurricanes and the unquestioned face of the franchise.

They last played together when they represented Canada during the 2007 World Championships in Moscow, with the brothers even skating on the same line during one game, he said.

It's probably too early to tell how the brothers—both centres—will fit into the Hurricanes' depth chart.

Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford's top priority this off-season was finding a top-shelf forward to play alongside Eric. One option could be to put Jordan at centre and move Eric to left wing, a position he played for Canada during the 2010 Olympics. Or, the club could leave both at centre and continue shopping for another winger—either through a trade or free agency—to put on Eric's top line.

The 23-year-old Staal quickly developed one of the keys to the Penguins' rise. Teaming with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he helped form the most formidable three-centre combination in the league. He was a valuable penalty-killer with a deft touch around the net, scoring 25 goals in 2011-12 despite missing 20 games due to injury.

He's under contract through this coming season and is due to become an unrestricted free agent next July. The Penguins wanted to lock him up for well beyond that, but several factors that ultimately led him to reject that long-term offer. Staal played a prominent role offensively last season while Crosby battled injuries, and with everybody expected back in the lineup, he wasn't entirely sure how the ice time and the opportunities would shake out.

"When I heard about it, I just wasn't really comfortable with it yet. I just kind of wanted to wait it out and play next year and kind of see how things went," Staal said, later adding that "I felt really comfortable in that (prominent offensive) role and I wanted to try to score and see if I could really do some good things in that role."

Plus, staying in Pittsburgh for the long haul likely would have prevented him from playing with Eric—who's locked up with Carolina through 2015-16. The Hurricanes also have youngest brother Jared in their organization. A fourth brother, Marc, is a defenceman with the New York Rangers.

Rutherford has said he plans to discuss a contract extension in early July with his newest Staal, who said he has given thought to such a deal with Carolina and "maybe calling it home.

"It's not too often just to have brothers in the NHL, but to play alongside one is a very special thing," Staal said. "If I did sign that 10-year extension with Pittsburgh, that opportunity to play with Eric would dwindle a lot, and that was a little part of why I didn't do that. It's a very exciting time for myself and Eric and our family. ... It's going to be a very neat time in my career."


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