Staal a tempting target for Coyotes

Staal a tempting target for Coyotes

Published Jun. 6, 2012 3:11 p.m. ET

Jordan Staal, who turns 24 in September, had 25 goals and 25 assists in 62 games for the Penguins in the 2011-12 season.

June 6, 2012

There’s a tantalizing trade rumor making the rounds that will pique Coyotes’ fans interest.

If Pittsburgh can’t get center Jordan Staal signed to a contract extension this offseason, he might on the blocks. The reasoning is this: Staal will be an unrestricted free agent after next season, so the Penguins might want to get something for a valuable asset.

The Coyotes are one of several teams said to be interested. General manager Don Maloney did not return a message left Wednesday. One scenario has Phoenix dealing defenseman Keith Yandle, a second-round pick this year and a third-round pick next season for Staal.

That deal makes sense on a lot of fronts. Each team has a surplus at the position they’d be dealing. The Coyotes have been stockpiling defenseman in their system for several years, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson appears ready to take a giant leap forward. Pittsburgh already has centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to go along with Staal – a collection that Maloney recently called “an embarrassment of riches.”

Both teams also have glaring needs that this deal would address. The Coyotes have needed a top-flight center at least since Jeremy Roenick left -- arguably for their entire Valley existence. The Penguins already have forward depth, and they shored up their backup goaltending spot by signing Tomas Vokoun, who should push underachieving Marc-Andre Fleury.

There are problems with this rumor as well. What if Pittsburgh wants more than the aforementioned assets? What if other Staal suitors like Buffalo and Carolina drive the price higher? Does Yandle’s puck-moving and puck-possession game adequately address the Penguins’ defensive shortcomings, or is his defensive zone play a concern?

Equally important: Can the Coyotes finalize their sale by the time free agency opens on July 1 so they have the freedom to make deals and can negotiate with an air of stability? Will new owner Greg Jamison be willing to pony up a long-term contract for a young (23) and talented center? Will Staal agree to sign that contract or will he want to test the waters after one season, creating the possibility of losing a defenseman who is signed for four more years for a rent-a-center?

With Los Angeles set to sweep the New Jersey Devils and claim the Stanley Cup, hockey’s silly season has begun. Get ready for a wave of intriguing rumors, most of which will never achieve reality.

-- Craig Morgan