PITTSBURGH — Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has said since the season ended that he wanted to acquire a top-tier forward to play with Canes captain Eric Staal.
And Rutherford did Friday -- Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After some last-minute wheeling and dealing, Rutherford completed the deal just before the NHL Entry Draft began at the Pens' Consol Energy Center. The price was steep, costing the Canes center Brandon Sutter and defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin, plus Carolina's first-round pick (eighth overall) in this year's draft.
"When you're acquiring an elite player you have to give a lot for it," Rutherford said. "And we did. We paid Pittsburgh a good price.
"We love Brandon Sutter. It was really hard to let him go. He's been a very good player for us and has a very good future ahead of him. ... But when you get into a deal like this you usually give up something you don't want to give."
Staal, 23, is due to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. The Pens on Thursday offered Staal a 10-year contract extension worth a reported $60 million, but Staal turned down the offer.
Rutherford said he had no contact Friday with either Staal brother. Jordan Staal was married on Friday in Thunder Bay, Ont.
"I called Jordan and of course he didn't answer," Rutherford said, smiling. "I told him the news and told him to call me back in a few days."
Rutherford said negotiations with Jordan Staal and his agent on a new contract would begin in July.
"We'll figure out a way to keep him," he quipped.
Jordan Staal, like Eric, has his name on the Stanley Cup. He's big at 6-4 and 220 pounds, he's rugged, he's strong in the defensive end and also has offensive potential.
Despite missing 20 games this past season, Staal had career highs in assists (25) and points (50) while scoring 25 goals. He had six goals and three assists in the Pens' six-game playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In his six NHL seasons, Staal has scored 120 goals and notched 128 assists, with a plus/minus rating of plus-53 in 431 regular-season games. The Pens won the Cup in 2009 and reached the playoffs each of the six seasons.
Rutherford said it's possible the two Staals could play on the same line -- with Eric Staal moving from center to the wing. Eric Staal played the wing for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Sutter, 23, has 286 games of NHL experience -- playing all 82 games each of the past two seasons -- and was an alternate captain for the Hurricanes. Arguably the Canes' best defensive forward, he should be able to make an easy transition into the Pens' lineup.
"Brandon Sutter is one of the best two-way centers in the league," Rutherford said. "He's a perfect fit for the Penguins when they give up Jordan Staal."
Rutherford said the Pens were adamant about Sutter being a part of the trade.
"If Brandon wasn't in the deal, the deal was going somewhere else," he said.
Dumoulin, 20, won two NCAA titles with Boston College before signing a three-year entry level contract with Carolina in April.
Rutherford said he first talked with Shero just after the season, when Shero mentioned publicly that he may not be able to re-sign Staal while also trying to arrange new contracts for star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Rutherford said he talked again with Shero on Friday afternoon about 4 p.m., met later in his office and completed the deal about 6:45.
"This improves our team," Rutherford said. "You name me two or three other center icemen that are like Jordan Staal. You just can't find them."