Eric Staal (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
The Carolina Hurricanes could make a decision on Eric Staal’s future depending on how upcoming contract talks go. Staal is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Another UFA who will draw interest is Boston’s Loui Eriksson, who is having his best season as a Bruin.
Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal's future remains a hot topic in the NHL rumor mill. Appearing on NBC Sports, TSN insider Bob McKenzie reports Hurricanes GM Ron Francis is expected to meet soon with Staal's agent to determine if the two sides can work out a new deal.
If a new contract isn't possible, the Hurricanes could attempt to move him before the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Staal, 31, carries a full no-movement clause, but he told NHL.com's Dan Rosen he won't veto a trade if management opts to move him.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes the Nashville Predators could be a trade destination for Staal. He points out Predators coach Peter Laviolette guided Staal and the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun also suggests the Predators as a good fit for Staal, as well as noting the Montreal Canadiens have sought a top-line center for a long time. TheScore's Craig Hagerman suggests Francis use the “trade-and-sign” method, shipping out Staal for a return that helps the rebuilding Hurricanes and then bringing him back this summer via free agency.
Francis' asking price, however, will be a key factor. Stan Fischler recently said he could see a swap of Staal to the Pittsburgh Penguins for center Evgeni Malkin. While Francis would make that move in a heartbeat, Malkin's no-movement clause says no. Yes, former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford now runs the Penguins. However, he's not going to give up his best forward for a pending UFA, not even for Staal.
The Hurricanes won't get a top-line forward back and teams could balk at giving up a good young player. Draft picks and prospects are the likely return for Francis' rebuilding club.
If the Hurricanes decide to part ways with Staal, McKenzie wonders if they might do the same with his brother Jordan. He has seven years remaining on his contract worth $6 million per season plus a full no-movement clause. Jordan's status could be worth keeping an eye on this summer.
ERIKSSON INTERESTING RENTAL OPTION
Staal isn't the only pending UFA facing an uncertain future. The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa observes the Bruins could be forced to part ways with veteran winger Loui Eriksson if his asking price proves too expensive.
If the 30-year-old Eriksson hits the trade block, Shinzawa believes the Bruins will seek a first-round pick and a top prospect. If they hope to use him to land a good young defenseman, he suggests adding one of their two first-round picks in next year's draft.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty speculates the Bruins could try to use Eriksson as trade bait for a blueliner comparable to Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba. It'll take more than a playoff rental player to entice that type of return. Even adding a first-round pick might not suffice. They stand a better chance of landing a high pick and a prospect.
HAMONIC'S TRADE ASK OVERSHADOWS OKPOSO'S STATUS
Rumors over potential trade destinations for New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic have overshadowed speculation over right wing Kyle Okposo's contract status. Like Staal and Eriksson, the 27-year-old Okposo is eligible for UFA status next July.
TSN insider Bob McKenzie told NBC Sports he doesn't believe the Islanders will trade Okposo unless they fall completely out of the playoff picture by the trade deadline. They're currently in the thick of the Eastern Conference postseason race. McKenzie notes the Isles are focused on reaching the playoffs and Okposo could be a part of that.
Okposo's name surfaced during the preseason suggesting he could be dealt if he proves too costly to re-sign. While it remains to be seen if the Isles can afford to keep him, the lack of improvement from wingers Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson could boost his value to their playoff hopes this season.
McKenzie also points out the Islanders' new ownership officially takes over on July 1, 2016. They could be more willing to loosen the purse strings to re-sign Okposo than outgoing owner Charles Wang.
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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