The NHL Entry Draft marks the beginning of a career for top prospects across North America and Europe who have dreamt of the day in which one of the thirty NHL teams calls their name. The elite players that have dominated their respective junior teams have entered into a professional league where they must begin to work their way up from the bottom of the barrel as rookies to compete with today's NHL stars. As the NHL brass met in Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Draft, the home of the Penguins became hockey media central. When the first round of the draft began on Friday at Consol Energy Center, the story lines and headlines shifted from a focus on the prospects in the building to a player that was drafted second overall six years earlier.

Jordan Staal was not present at the draft nor was he anywhere near the state of Pennsylvania. When news broke on Thursday that Jordan Staal had turned down a ten year contract, reportedly worth approximately $60 million dollars, the Penguins fan base knew that the legacy of Ray Shero's three center masterpiece was nearing an end. On Friday evening when Staal was exchanging vows at his wedding in his hometown of Thunder Bay, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman walked to the Draft stage in Pittsburgh to announce a trade.

The hometown crowd cheered as it was announced that Jordan Staal had been sent to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the 8th overall pick in which Penguins GM Ray Shero would select Derrick Pouliot. In a matter of 24 hours, the highlight reel of Jordan Staal's time in Pittsburgh that began when he was drafted in 2006 was overshadowed by the negative way in which the chapter of his career with the Penguins would come to an end.

Sending Jordan Staal to join his oldest brother Eric in Carolina was a business transaction and a hockey trade that Ray Shero knew he had to make. An entire year of pending contract negotiations would have been a dark cloud over the Penguins locker room as rumors and demands from both parties would have circulated through the Pittsburgh sports media. Signing longterm to a deal upwards of ten years was not a negotiation in which Staal was ready to put pen to paper. Staal should not become a villain in Pittsburgh for not accepting Shero's contract extension. Jordan Staal outgrew his role as a third line center. Ten years without any significant indication to an increased role in the team would not be appealing to a twenty-three year old player with as much talent as Staal. The trade makes sense for both parties. Ray Shero has cleared enough cap space to make the Penguins buyers on the free agent market. Jordan Staal will play alongside his brother in the NHL which has been a dream that was likely born on a pond or inside a rink in Thunder Bay.

Jordan Staal's time in Pittsburgh ended with as much drama and online outrage as possible with the hockey media buzzing in town for the NHL Draft. When Staal returns to Pittsburgh and steps on the ice for the first time on November 23rd, Penguins fans should honor him with the respect that he deserves. Remember Staal for setting the NHL record for scoring seven short handed goals in his rookie season. Remember the great feeling you had when Staal shifted the momentum in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals with a short handed goal in game four. Remember the guy loved and known by Penguins fans as Gronk.

The NHL Draft marks the beginning of a career. This is where Jordan Staal put on the Penguins jersey for the first time, on the road to setting records as a rookie and winning the Stanley Cup as a twenty year old. On the Friday night in November when Jordan Staal returns to Pittsburgh and a highlight reel and montage plays during a TV timeout, stand up and applaud. Jordan Staal will always be a part of Penguins history. His name will forever be engraved on the Stanley Cup and these memories and his time as a significant part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization should never be forgotten.

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