Eric Staal & Cam Ward (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal is years removed from the best seasons of his career and there’s some belief that a change of scenery could, and should, be coming for the veteran center. In New York, Rangers center Derek Stepan still doesn’t have a new contract as arbitration draws nearer, but he’s not believed to be on the trade market. Meanwhile, trade options around the league seem to be drying thanks in part to the salary cap.
In recent weeks, there's been little word regarding the status of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward. Both have a year remaining on their respective contracts and are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency.
Of the pair, Staal is the most important and expensive. The 30-year-old center is still considered their franchise player and earns an average cap hit of $8.25-million, though in real salary he'll be drawing $9.5 million for 2015-16. ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wonders what dollar figures will work best for both sides. If unable to reach an agreement, Burnside suggests GM Ron Francis could be forced to part with Staal.
Appearing on TSN's That's Hockey, Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press said he believes Staal has been in a funk for several years, largely because of the Hurricanes' lack of talent. Lawless feels he needs to move on, believing the Hurricanes could get a top-line player, top prospect and a high pick in return.
Neither Staal nor Francis seems close to reaching a significant decision on this issue. They could opt to see how the 2015-16 season plays out before getting down to serious discussions.
STEPAN TALKS MOVING SLOW
Earlier this week, the schedule for players headed to arbitration was released. Among the notables is New York Rangers center Derek Stepan, whose hearing is slated for July 27.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks reports the two sides, as of last weekend, were barely in the preliminary stages of negotiations. According to Brooks, the Rangers hadn't even made an opening proposal. He feels it could take an opening bid of six-year, $39-million to get talks started.
Brooks also claims there's no indication the Rangers intend to trade Stepan prior to his arbitration hearing. Should the 25-year-old center hit the trade block, there will be considerable interest in him. However, it could prove difficult finding takers at this point in the off-season capable of absorbing the significant raise he'll soon receive via negotiation or arbitration.
Bear in mind, the Rangers and Stepan can continue negotiations up to the date of his arbitration hearing. Most players usually re-sign before facing an arbiter. Either the Rangers are engaging in brinkmanship with Stepan, or the two sides are confident they have sufficient time to hammer out an agreement.
TRADE MARKET DRYING UP
As fans and pundits spend the summer mulling over possible trade candidates, several players featured in the rumor mill in recent months could remain with their current teams when the curtain rises on 2015-16.
In Vancouver, there was recent speculation suggesting the Canucks might trade versatile forward Chris Higgins. The Province's Ben Kuzma reports team president Trevor Linden claims his club has held no trade talks regarding the 32-year-old Higgins. Linden went on to say the Canucks value the winger's on-ice abilities and leadership.
Prior to the St. Louis Blues shipping winger T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals, it was assumed forward Patrik Berglund was a trade candidate. However, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believes the 27-year-old's contract proved difficult to move. Berglund has two years remaining worth $3.7 million per season.
According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has no plans to move Sutter, valuing the 26-year-old center's two-way abilities. As for the 24-year-old Cowen, Senators GM Bryan Murray is reluctant to give up on the 6-foot-5, 230-pound blueliner.
Friedman also claims the Edmonton Oilers rejected offers for center (and 2014 third-overall pick) Leon Draisaitl. Despite a logjam at center, they're expected to shift the 19-year-old Draisaitl to the wing.
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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.