Eric Staal (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Even if GM Ron Francis puts Eric Staal on the trade block, finding a suitable trade partner could be easier said than done.
Throughout this season, many pundits believed Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal would be moved by the Feb. 29 trade deadline. With the Hurricanes in rebuilding mode and Staal's numbers in decline, it was assumed the two sides would part ways.
The Hurricanes' recent improvement, however, has them in striking distance of a playoff berth. That could prompt GM Ron Francis to reconsider trading his 31-year-old captain. Even if Francis puts Staal on the trade block, TSN's Frank Seravalli believes finding a suitable trade partner could be easier said than done.
Staal's $8.25-million salary-cap hit is the sticking point. Seravalli claims only six playoff-bound clubs - the Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators – can afford to take it on by the deadline.
Even then, however, Staal might not be a suitable fit for those clubs. He notes Stars centers Cody Eakin and Mattias Janmark are younger and have more goals than Staal, while the Avalanche and Ducks are set at center. Seravalli doubts Staal's a good fit on the Islanders' swift-skating lineup, while the Panthers and Predators need a scoring winger.
Staal has skated on left wing at various times over the last two seasons, so he could still be a fit for the Panthers and Predators. However, even with the room to take on his cap hit, they'll likely want the Hurricanes to pick up part of it.
Seravalli recommends absorbing part of Staal's salary to broaden his appeal in the trade market. That's something the New York Post's Larry Brooks believes the Hurricanes must do if Rangers GM Jeff Gorton decides to pursue him.
Brooks considers Staal the only player in this year's trade market worth sacrificing a first-round pick for. He also proposes Gorton offer up center Oscar Lindberg as part of the return, believing Staal could help the Blueshirts make one more run for the Stanley Cup before their window of opportunity closes.
Regardless of Staal's declining numbers and cap hit, he remains a respected player around the league. Some observers suggest he could regain his scoring touch on a deeper roster. There's bound to be a few GMs thinking the same way who could take a chance on him at the deadline.
WILL FLYERS BE BUYERS OR SELLERS?
Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall also faces the difficult decision of becoming a buyer or seller. Like the Hurricanes, the Flyers are very close to a wild-card berth. It could prove tempting to pursue a deal that bolsters their chances.
Philly.com's Tim Panaccio, however, believes Hextall should get into sell mode now and start clearing roster and cap space for the Flyers' up-and-coming talent. He advocates putting blueliners Mark Streit, Nick Schultz and Evgeny Medvedev on the block, but doesn't expect any takers for overpaid rearguard Andrew MacDonald or fading center R.J. Umberger.
Moving the 38-year-old Streit won't be easy, as he's got another season on this contract worth $5.75 million with a modified no-trade clause. Schultz, 33, is also signed through next season but at a more affordable $2.25 million, while the 33-year-old Medvedev ($3-million cap hit) is a UFA this summer. Neither carries a no-trade clause in their contracts.
BLUE JACKETS NOT DONE DEALING
After the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones last month, there's interest in what moves they have in store for the trade deadline. Despite some recent improvement, the Jackets remain well out of playoff contention.
Blue Jacket president of hockey operations John Davidson told The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline his roster won't look much different following the deadline. Davidson insists they won't move out their young talent “unless it just makes a ton of sense.” In other words, unless there's another deal similar to the Johansen-for-Jones swap, the Jackets won't do it.
That doesn't mean the Jackets won't be selling at the deadline. Portzline believes they could try to move out a veteran like left winger Scott Hartnell or defenseman Fedor Tyutin. Hartnell, 33, is signed through 2018-19 with an annual cap hit of $4.75 million and carries a full no-movement clause. Tyutin, 32, also carries a no-movement clause and a $4.5-million cap hit to the end of 2017-18.
Hartnell or Tyutin might consider waiving their movement clauses for an opportunity to skate with a contender, but their respective salaries could be difficult to move at this time of year. The Jackets could face retaining a portion of their salaries to make them more enticing in the trade market.
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Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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