TORONTO - When he walked down the aisle Friday night, Jordan Staal was a Pittsburgh Penguin.
But by the time they were toasting the bride at his wedding, he was a teammate of his brother Eric in Carolina.
That was a wedding gift of sorts for Staal, who has quietly and not always happily played a subservient role to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the Penguins.
But don’t expect the Maple Leafs to be sending a wedding present any day now.
On a wild and stunning draft night in the NHL, the Maple Leafs got caught in a whirlwind they had little to do with, made a nice pick for the long-term future, but find themselves today in a more difficult position than they were yesterday.
The pickup of Staal was exactly the kind of pickup the Leafs needed, a special player of speed and skill, who plays three zones, who understands winning.
Only they didn’t really have any answer for the Penguins and they certainly didn’t have a brother to sell to make the deal all the more possible.
Why does this matter?
For almost every year the Leafs have missed the playoffs in recent times, they haven’t just failed to qualify, they have been behind the Carolina Hurricanes.
They were behind them when the Canes made the playoffs. And behind them when the Canes missed. They were two points behind this season. Six the two years before that. Sixteen points behind in 2009, nine behind in 2008. Over the years, every time you add up which eight teams will make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, there is always the hope the Leafs will be better than the Hurricanes.
Probably not anymore.
They had Leaf killer Eric Staal before. Now they have Double Staal. They have two No. 1 centres now, or a pair they combine on one line that will give the rest of hockey trouble.
If there were eight teams to beat out for a playoff spot earlier in the week, there are now nine. Probably more than that.
The Eastern Conference grew somewhat in talent and depth on draft night. The New York Islanders, a point behind the Leafs and forever waiting for their boatload of talent to develop, finished one point behind the Leafs last season and added veteran defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky on a draft-floor deal. They selected defenceman Griffin Reinhart before the Leafs chose Morgan Rielly with their first pick.
That should help the Isles short term and long term.
Rielly will play for the Leafs — just not this season. And if the Leafs truly want to cash in on selecting him, they will need to find a way to outmanoevre the rest of the NHL in picking up free-agent defenceman Justin Schultz.
Should the Leafs do that, they can boast about a future blueline of speed and finesse with Jake Gardiner, Rielly and Schultz. But if Schultz ends up somewhere else — which is likely — then there are two young defenders to build around, a future that may not be in place for three or four more years.
Jordan Staal helps Carolina immediately.
Visnovsky should settle down the Islanders defence.
Tampa Bay, four points ahead of the Leafs without any goaltending, have added goaltender Anders Lindback since the season ended.
Washington, which barely made the playoffs in the East, brought in centre Mike Ribeiro to likely replace Alex Semin.
Over the last two seasons, the sometimes disregarded Ribeiro outscored Semin 134-108.
The top Leafs centre, Mikhail Grabovski, had 109 points over that same period.
What could the Leafs have offered for the 23-year-old Staal. They could have given up their first-round pick. But after that, they didn’t have what the Penguins were looking for — a sturdy third-line centre, and a Sutter to boot — to make a difference.
What could the Leafs have countered with?
The best thing about Friday night was the drafting of Rielly.
He is considered an offensive defenceman with limited toughness in his own end. He is a superb skater who will require more junior play. And the fact that his coach in Moose Jaw happens to be former NHL journeyman Mike Stothers should enhance his development.
Two, three years down the road that will factor. Jordan Staal factors now.
The honeymoon just got better for the Staal family, just not the Leafs.