The future of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, a year away from the end of his contract, is a high priority for general manager Ron Francis with two weeks to go before the NHL Draft in Florida.
Pierre LeBrun reported last night that Francis and agent Rick Curran, who not only represents Eric Staal but also his brother Jordan, goaltender Cam Ward and forward Jeff Skinner, will soon open negotiations over a new contract. Eric Staal's contract, which was signed in the summer of 2008 but didn't take effect until the following year, will pay him $9.5 million next season, tied with Evgeni Malkin for the eighth-highest salary in the NHL.
LeBrun expects Francis to make clear that this will be the high-water mark for Staal's yearly salary:
What does Francis have in mind for the future? It is a full rebuild? Or a quick re-tool? Where do the vets on the team fit into all that?
But it certainly starts with the captain, who has always maintained that he wanted to stay in Carolina, the only team he’s ever played for. He carries an $8.25 million cap hit but will earn $9.5 million in real money next season. No doubt if the Hurricanes sign him to an extension, they will want it at a discount.
Staal controls his fate with the no-trade clause but at the end of the day, I imagine he would want to stay on board only if he’s wanted by the team.
Under former GM Jim Rutherford, this would be a slam dunk, or at least close to it. Staal would get a contract paying him around $8 million annually, tailing off over about 7 or 8 years, with a cap hit of $6 million or so. End of discussion.
But the fact that Francis is apparently floating trial balloons out through the media that he would at least consider another course of action proves, yet again, that business as usual is no longer business as usual at 1400 Edwards Mill.
If Francis does decide to move Staal - no sure bet, but anything's possible - would there be a willing taker? The value for Staal will likely peak at the draft and slowly decline thereafter, but you're still talking about a player who would fetch at least as much in return as the Blue Jackets got for Rick Nash in 2012, the last time a superstar captain was traded: two roster players, a prospect, and a first round pick.
As LeBrun points out, Jordan Staal was enticed to finagle his way to the Hurricanes so that he would play with his brother, and there is no doubt Curran will use that fact to his advantage in negotiations for Eric Staal. Would that play into this? And what then becomes of the aforementioned Cam Ward, whose contract is also up after this season and whose contract may be somewhat less of a priority given that Francis unsuccessfully tried to unload him before last season?
There are a lot of moving parts here, and as Francis enters his second offseason in charge of the Hurricanes his decision with regards to Staal will prove a watershed moment, one way or the other.
What do you think the Canes should do with their captain?