Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin won his first Hart Trophy as NHL MVP Wednesday night. He joined Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Sidney Crosby as the four Penguins to have won the award and Jordan Staal as the second Penguins center to lie at the heart of ongoing trade rumors.

Ahem.

Geno was the big story Wednesday, but the focus shifts immediately back to Pittsburgh’s $4 million third-line center. Staal-to-everywhere trade rumors haven’t stopped splashing since the Flyers allowed him to lead all Penguins skaters in playoff scoring with nine points in six miserable games earlier this spring.

Despite Shero’s comments, the rumor mill continues to spin.

The big center hasn’t made any trade overtures to the press, but with Sidney Crosby’s next deal the clear priority and the position of strength Staal holds as a UFA-to-be, trade talk isn’t likely to stop until Staal re-signs or is traded.

Those rumors got a push in the direction of credibility Wednesday night after the NHL Awards Circus.

Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com reported that Staal indeed plans to seek free agency and does not plan to re-sign with the Penguins.

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