Rumors have run rampant recently surrounding a possible trade of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, but the organization should realize the value of the player and keep him on the roster as long as possible.
As one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise and a cornerstone of the organization, moving Staal now would indicate that Carolina is throwing in the towel for the 2014-15 season and starting the rebuilding process.
According to Doug Mittler of ESPN.com (subscription required), “The name of Eric Staal has been floated in trade rumors for months” and “there was some buzz earlier this summer that the New York Rangers could make a move for Staal, but the cap hit makes that very unlikely.”
Making a possible deal even more difficult is the core-muscle injury and subsequent surgery Staal is recovering from, according to the team’s website. Staal suffered the injury during offseason workouts but should be ready by September.
When asked about Staal’s injury, general manager Ron Francis told Terrell Williams of the team’s official website, “Eric notified us of the injury late last week, and flew to Raleigh and then Philadelphia to be evaluated. By having this procedure now, Dr. Meyers believes Eric will be able to return to action for training camp and be at full health for the start of the regular season.”
The reason the rumors began in the first place was the lackluster play of the veteran center last season. He amassed 61 points in 79 games, and while that would be good for a second- or third-line player, Staal reached the 100-point plateau once and has racked up 70 or more points in seven different seasons.
For Staal, the biggest drop has been his goal production. He eclipsed 30 or more goals in a season five times over the course of his 10-year career, but the 29-year-old hasn’t scored more than 25 since 2010-11.
One of the biggest issues is the lack of talent around him, though.
Having his brother Jordan Staal on the roster is a comforting notion, but both men play center and are on two different lines. While Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin are talented players, neither is the playmaker that the older Staal needs on his line to be effective.
Instead of Staal being a distributor to his teammates, Carolina should be bringing in players with elite ice vision and the ability to thread passes in order to capitalize on the sniper abilities of the team’s captain.
Even if the franchise eventually decided to move Staal, his contract would be a speed bump all parties would have trouble getting over. Not only does he have a no-trade clause, per CapGeek.com, but he also has an average salary-cap hit of $8.25 million and will make $9.25 million this season and $9.50 million next season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2016.
Few teams in the NHL have the salary-cap room to absorb such a monster contract.
With Staal’s injury putting the trade talk on the shelf temporarily and the center’s contract causing serious holdups along the way, the franchise’s best option would be to bring in better players to help the captain succeed.
Whether it’s on the power play, shorthanded or even strength, the Hurricanes need more talent across the depth chart and better players to bolster the top line. There are a few players left on the free-agent market (veterans Dustin Penner and Saku Koivu) who would be ideal additions to the team and would likely make Staal perform at a higher level.
The hope for the franchise is that it understands the value of keeping Staal long term and continues to build the franchise around the captain for the foreseeable future.
*Stats via NHL.com.