Jordan Staal: 2021-22 By the Numbers
- Age: 33
- NHL seasons: 16
- Scoring: 17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points in 78 games
- Playoff scoring: 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points in 14 games
- Advanced statistics: 58.38 CF%, 58.23 HDCF%, 57.46 xGF%, 57.5 GF%
- Average TOI: 13:43 ES, 0:42 PP, 2:13 SH
- Contract status: Signed through 2022-23 at $6.0 million AAV
What were you doing ten years ago?
Chances are, your answer is not “exactly the same thing I am doing today.” But if you’re Jordan Staal and you’re reading this, first off, hello! - and second, yep, you’re the exception that proves the rule.
It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since Staal was acquired from Pittsburgh and immediately signed to a ten-year contract extension that pays him $6 million annually. That extension enters its final year next season, and Staal has hinted that he might not sign another one. Back to that in a second.
Over his career with the Hurricanes, he’s been a model of consistency, especially defensively. In only one season was he below league average in expected goals against percentage, and much more often he’s been among the league’s best.
But over the past couple of years, things have started to take a tumble offensively for the captain, culminating in a season where his defensive play (mostly) stood up to scrutiny, but there wasn’t the offensive threat to pair with it. As a result, one of the best two-way forwards the Hurricanes have ever employed has found himself reduced to a largely one-way player.
(Oddly enough, only once in his entire ten-year run with the Hurricanes has Staal scored more goals than expected. If you found yourself this past season thinking that Staal’s inability to convert solid scoring chances looks familiar, friend, your eyes do not deceive you.)
Rod Brind’Amour doesn’t like tinkering with lines, although he did so this season more than in past years. But the trio of Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jesper Fast was so effective that they were almost never separated. Only six other lines in the entire league spent as much time together as the Hurricanes’ third line, which was together for 11% of the Hurricanes’ total man-minutes played in 2021-22.
Staal is very much a “you know what you’re going to get” player. In some ways, that makes a year in review on him more tricky than just about any other player, because what can you say about Jordan Staal that hasn’t already been said? There’s a lot of mileage on those tires, and it’s not a surprise at all to see them wearing down. Staal turns 34 on September 10, and among active players from his draft class, only Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic have played more games than Staal’s 1,092.
Truthfully, it’s a testament to Staal’s conditioning that his defensive game remains as solid as it does, entering year 17 of his NHL career. A $6 million salary for a player who is a third-line center at this point of his career is high, yes, but look at the whole thing: the Hurricanes got more bang for their buck in past years, most notably a stretch from 2012-2019 where Staal posted 40 points per 82 games every single year on some truly decrepit Hurricanes rosters. (Andrej Nestrasil and Joakim Nordstrom send their best regards.) That production combined with Staal’s consistently excellent defensive play is absolutely worth the tradeoff the Hurricanes are paying now.
And even at his current output, he’s still not that overpaid:
There’s no question that time is creeping up on Staal. Even he admitted as much at his postseason meeting with the media. If he does elect to hang up his skates and not sign a new contract after the upcoming season, he will have nothing left to prove. He’s earned the right to go out on his own terms.
A reasonable person could look at the situation, see Jack Drury waiting in the wings and likely to contribute on the same level as Staal, look at the salary difference, and start yelling at clouds about how the Hurricanes don’t have the cap space to afford having one of the highest-paid third-line centers in the league. But don’t be fooled into believing that it’s black-and-white. Staal still has a Stanley Cup ring and has inherited the mantle from Justin Williams as the unquestioned leader of the locker room. I know intangibles are out of fashion in general, but Staal is the prototypical player for whom you can’t quantify a salary simply on the basis of numbers.
Next offseason, we might be having a different conversation, one where the Hurricanes no longer have Staal’s services to count on. Until then, the Hurricanes will keep throwing Staal out to kill nearly every penalty, shut down opposing top lines, and lead by example in much the same way his coach did during his own playing career.
Just as it’s been for the last ten years. Some things never change.
How would you grade Jordan Staal’s 2021-22 season?
This poll is closed
A - outstanding performance
B - above average performance
C - average performance
D - below average performance
F - significantly below average performance