Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Ron Francis has a lot on his plate this offseason. One of the big decisions he has to make is to figure out what to do regarding team captain, Eric Staal.
Staal will be entering the last year of his contract next season, a deal that will pay him $9.5 million in his final year.
The GM could extend Staal's contract this summer, locking up Carolina's leading scorer for a few more years. He could take a wait and see approach and work on a contract extension during next season if it is going well. He could wait until the end of next season and try to re-sign him before July 1, when he will become a free agent. Or he could work on a trade and see if the Captain would accept it, (Staal has a no-movement clause and can nix any trade option if he wanted.)
It's not an easy decision to make, especially considering Staal's career path seems to be on a downward trajectory.
After an excellent lock-out shortened season when he averaged more than a point per game, his production has dropped off to the lowest point in his career, since his rookie season.
Even with the disappointing numbers he still led the team in scoring, with the only challenge coming from defenseman, Justin Faulk.
But while he is the team's leading scorer, Staal no longer seems to be considered one of the darlings, or stars of the NHL. Gone are the days when he was sent to New York City for NHL photo ops. Gone are the All Star Game invitations. Once considered a shoo-in, last year he failed to make Team Canada's Olympic squad.
It seems like around the hockey world, his star has faded a bit. Still, he is one of Carolina's best players, if not the best player.
Francis has said repeatedly that his focus is on what is best for the franchise, long term. He certainly does not want to wait until next July 1, have Staal enter the free agent market, and get nothing in return for him.
On the other hand, if the team struggles again next season, Staal, (if he had an expiring contract), would be a huge asset to offer to contenders at trade deadline time.
Is it better for the franchise to give this player a contract extension and lock him up now, or gamble a bit and wait and see?
Some think the decision should be made pretty quickly.
John Forslund was on 99.9 The Fan last week and indicated that he felt the Captain should be re-signed, the sooner the better.
Forslund: If the Hurricanes are thinking about making a deal for E. Staal, they better get to it soon. He's gotta be handled with respect
The Hurricanes held their press conference the very next day and when asked directly about re-signing the Captain, Francis was not very definitive.
Yes, I think we always have to look at these situations. Eric has one year left. He was our leading scorer, our leading goal scorer. Would you like to have more, yes you would. He would tell you himself that he'd like to have 30 goals. We will have discussions regarding this situation. As everyone is aware, he has a no movement clause, so he will control a lot of that. He does like it here and wants to be part of the solution. He wants to get back to the playoffs. So we will have those discussions over the summer and see where they take us.
I am not sure what the no-movement clause has to do with a contract extension negotiation, but Francis included that in his response.
It would seem that if he could re-sign Staal to a shorter term, more reasonable contract, it might get done. Who knows how much Staal is looking for though.
Some fans are less than pleased with the player and they are looking for a change.
Since Eric was named captain, the team has yet to make the playoffs. Of course there are other reasons for negative reactions as well, but Bill Peters spoke very highly of his player. It came to light that he played with a broken foot at times during the season. He also started out recovering from a "core injury" which set him back as well.
Peters called him an excellent captain.
After acquiring Jason Spezza from Ottawa, the Stars re-signed him to a 4 year deal with a cap hit of $7.5 million per season. Should the Canes offer Staal something similar? He will probably be looking for a deal like that.
Francis needs the team to get off to a good start next season and sometimes players in the last year of a contract use that as extra motivation. Could the GM wait and see if the Captain gets off to a hot start, then re-sign him?
There is a lot to consider.
What do you think Francis should do?