Potential is a nice word, but until it becomes a reality, it’s just a word for an NHL team. So when the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the 2012 draft and made the biggest trade splash by dealing Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter and two pieces with "potential"- defensemen Brian Dumoulin and the 8th overall draft pick that became Derrick Pouliot. It was potentially a very good deal for the Penguins, who replaced Staal (an impending free agent) for a capable third line center in Sutter and then those two impressive, but young assets.
Turning those impressive, young players into NHL level talent would be when the Penguins won the trade. So, on Saturday, when Dumoulin made his NHL debut, the scales of the trade have swung.
Of course, it helps that Staal hasn’t played that great either- scoring just 7 goals and 7 assists in 34 games this season, decreased production from his final seasons in the ‘Burgh. Sutter himself has 5 goals and 7 assists in a same role, very similar boxcar stats. The extra leverage of the young players helps, as does the fact that Staal makes $6 million, compared to $2 million for Sutter.
Pouliot, 19, has gone from "project" on his draft-day into an impressive player. He had a great training camp in September with the Pens and has parlayed that into a strong season with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL (30 points- 9g, 21a in 28 games) and is expected to make Team Canada later this month for the World Junior Championships. He’ll turn pro next season and with his skating, stick-handling and puck moving ability, he might be able to make the jump to the NHL sooner than later.
Dumoulin is in his second pro year, where he’s grown into a top defenseman in the AHL, and like we mentioned, looking very capable in his debut playing 18:10 (an inflated figure due to Deryk Engelland getting tossed from the game) and added two blocked shots in a winning effort against the Red Wings.
More importantly, by turning potential into an NHL contribution- even if it may be short-lived for now once the regular four injured NHL defensemen get healthy- Brian Dumoulin has pushed the Penguins, officially, into a winner for the Jordan Staal trade.