The Future of Eric Staal
With Carolina sinking towards the NHL basement, the future of star centre Eric Staal has come under increasing speculation over the past few months – with the trade rumours coming to a head yesterday.
TSN’s Darren Dreger implied Toronto would be willing to pay an ‘enormous’ price to acquire the Team Canada forward; sending the hockey media in to something of a frenzy.
While Staal’s future remains largely in his own hands; a deal involving the Hurricanes Captain could lead to significant improvement for both sides of any potential trade.
Staal may be coming off arguably his worst season since breaking in to the league, but as a five time 30 goal scorer and proven performer his stock remains at least ‘reasonable’ – if not high – still.
The potential gains for Carolina are obvious – the chance to get any combination of good picks, good prospects and/or young NHL ready players to help aid a much needed rebuild.
Dreger expanded on the sort of package Canes GM Ron Francis might be looking for in any potential deal with Toronto – something which has already been discussed.
“I know this, the Maple Leafs have had discussions with the Carolina Hurricanes in the past, most recently in the summer about the potential availability of the Hurricanes captain. Now the asking price if Eric Staal is available at any point this season prior to the NHL trade deadline is going to be enormous. It would include a first-round pick, you’re talking about either Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri – because a center would have to go back – and likely Jake Gardiner. But I believe that’s a price that Toronto would be willing to pay.”
That’s one heck of a haul – a 1st, Kadri or Bozak and Gardiner. Wow.
But then Francis isn’t going to undersell the teams franchise player. And that’s where the negotiations become interesting.
Staying with the Leafs; Staal could be the long sought after first line centre the organisation needs. He is the kind of player that can help take them from the bubble to the play-offs and perhaps even mount something of a challenge in an Eastern Conference which is wide open.
The obvious stumbling block here is his $8.25m cap hit. Signed through to 2016, that’s a steep price for Toronto or anyone to absorb – no matter the quality of player. But it presents a more significant problem for the Maple Leafs as they sit just $911k under the cap thanks to David Booth’s latest stint on the LTIR.
There is no escaping that number for Toronto – they’d need to shift a significant amount of salary. Moving Bozak ($4.2m) and Gardiner ($4m after signing a new deal in the summer) would cover it, but then we come back to how much Dave Nonis and the Maple Leafes management is willing to give up.
As loathed as Toronto may be to move Phil Kessel’s BFF; Bozak may have to be pencilled in as a ‘given’ in any deal, largely because of that cap hit and ‘expend-ability’. Staal would replace him as the teams #1 centre, and with Leo Komarov, Peter Holland, Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik all able to play centre (and players like Trevor Smith and prospect William Nylander in the system) the Leafs can feel confident they have enough depth down the middle.
As Jeff Veillette put forward on The Leafs Nation, moving Cody Franson is an option – as the blue liner heads for free agency next summer and carries a $3.3m cap hit. Despite some issues at the back end, this would tie up the ‘cap problems’ a move for Staal would require.
Then we hit the messy area – how do you sweeten the pot for Carolina? Franson would help their blue line (and lord know they need that), but neither he nor Bozak are going to be big parts of a major rebuild – something trading Staal would kick off for Carolina.
So do Toronto move a 1st round pick? A good prospect? Well that depends how well they back themselves.
If the Maple Leafs want to be a play-off team, think they can be a play-off team, then they should back themselves – and make the deal.
It’s a big decision, a bold decision, and it might go wrong – just look at the Islanders and Thomas Vanek. Does that mean you should shy away? Not if you need to go ‘over the top’ like Toronto does.
But then we come back to Staal himself. He has a no movement clause, and he’s settled in Carolina playing along side one brother, and even talking about bringing the other to Raleigh.
It would need to be a pretty compelling argument to make him move – and if he did agree to waive his NTC, you can bet your bottom dollar Toronto would not be the only club that picks up the phone.
If you’re Eric Staal, and you agree to move, do you pick Toronto? Or do you look at other Cup contenders like San Jose or Anaheim, who could accommodate you just as easily?
The ball is in Staal’s court, but Toronto won’t be the only ones willing to ‘pay up’ to bring the Olympic gold medallist and Cup winner to their club should he become available.