Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/25/12

All remains quiet on the Pittsburgh Penguins' front -- at least publicly -- but speculation about the future of star center Jordan Staal isn't going to disappear.

For the first time since Staal was drafted in 2006, general manager Ray Shero has admitted he is unsure about the future of the "three-center model." For the past six seasons, the Penguins have enjoyed a significant advantage over other teams because of their immense strength at center. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Staal have given the Penguins unprecedented depth at one of hockey's most important positions.

But times have changed, and the Big Three are getting older. In other words, they're due for big, big raises. Keeping them together might not be possible, and if one is to go, Staal seems most likely.

Crosby and Staal both have contracts that expire in the summer of 2013. The Penguins will not trade Crosby under any circumstances and Shero told the Tribune-Review in December that signing him is the top priority of this summer. Malkin's deal expires in 2014.

Staal acknowledged following the season that keeping the three of them happy might be a problem in the future. He seems the most willing of the three to depart Pittsburgh and did nothing to hinder his asking price on a new contract by scoring six goals against the Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Whispers around the league indicate that Carolina is the most likely team to make a huge pitch for Staal in a trade this summer. His brother, Eric, is also a center in Carolina.

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