The Carolina Hurricanes have traded captain and longtime face of the franchise Eric Staal just ahead of the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline.
The New York Rangers announced they've acquired Staal in exchange for prospect Aleksi Saarela and a second-round pick in 2016 and 2017.
Per TSN 1200's Ian Mendes earlier in February, Staal said, "I'm not going to be crushed if a decision is made and I'm moving on."
Even though he had a no-trade clause in his contract, it was apparent then that Staal had reached a breaking point with Carolina.
The 31-year-old helped the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup title in his second year as a pro but hasn't been to the playoffs in the last six seasons. Carolina was wise to at least gain something in return for Staal, who was due to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and wasn't likely to stay.
The Hurricanes had quite a run with Staal after selecting him No. 2 overall in the 2003 NHL draft. They did get a decent package in the trade, but replacing someone with Staal's leadership and unique playmaking skills will be difficult.
Goalie Cam Ward is about the only saving grace in Carolina these days, but he's also due to hit the open market in the offseason, per Spotrac, and could well seek greener pastures.
This Staal trade is clearly geared toward a big rebuilding project for the Hurricanes, who've failed to surround Staal or Ward with adequate talent in recent years. The veteran center is finally free to pursue a second championship with a more realistic contender in New York.
The Rangers have a big market in the Big Apple to match a big-time talent in Staal, who has toiled away in relative obscurity for the Hurricanes in recent years.
Sweetening the deal to New York is the fact Staal is joining forces with his younger brother Marc, who is an alternate captain and a dynamic defender who can also spark the offense. The siblings give the Rangers plenty of leadership and should help their playoff push.