Carolina needs to bite the bullet and trade Eric Staal at the deadline, despite being in the playoff race
The Carolina Hurricanes have had a good past two months and have now found themselves only two points out of the playoff race. No one expected them to be there, despite rolling with a good young core. Now, Ron Francis has some serious decisions to make regarding the present and future of his hockey club.
The Hurricanes have ten unrestricted free agents to deal with this year: Cam Ward, John-Michael Liles, Kris Versteeg, Nathan Gerbe, Riley Nash, Brad Malone, Zach Boychuk, Drew MacIntyre, Derek Ryan, and captain Eric Staal. Notable restricted free agents include Chris Terry, Ryan Murphy, and Viktor Rask. Outside of a few names, none truly jump out as big contracts beside Eric Staal. The Hurricanes were expected to sell him at this trade deadline but the playoff race has made things all the more complicated.
The Hurricanes are in that transition period. Just exiting the rebuild, but not quite there to be a contender. A lot of their core players are young players, like Hanifin, Faulk, Skinner, Lindholm, Nestrasil, and Lack. Eric Staal still has a spot on the team and is currently their second leading point-scorer (behind Justin Faulk and tied with Kris Versteeg) but it may be in the team’s best interest to trade him come February 29th.
This doesn’t mean it is the end of the storyline, though. Staal could easily pull a move like Antoine Vermette or Matt Moulson did and re-sign with the team that traded him three months prior. Staal is due for a pay decrease from his 9.5 million dollar salary which is an odd case on its own.
The Hurricanes have a good core of defensive prospects in Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, Noah Hanifin, and Brett Pesce amongst others. Dealing Staal for forwards prospects and or draft picks might be a good route to go since they are severely lacking in that prospect department. Add a few good forwards into the mix with that defensive core plus Alex Nedeljkovic in net and you have yourself a good team in two to three years.
Let’s face it: the Carolina Hurricanes need a miracle and a half to make a deep run in the playoffs. Anomalies like the 2012 Los Angeles Kings or the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, where the eighth seed makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals, happen, but it is unlikely to happen for this Hurricanes team.
Eric Staal would fetch a pretty penny on the trade market and he, his agent, and the organization need to realize this is the right short term plan for the team and it is not the end of the road for both of these parties.
We will get a clearer look of how things will shake out as the trade deadline draws nearer.