Eric Staal traded to NY Rangers in NHL trade deadline blockbuster

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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Eric Staal had a decision to make, and the Carolina Hurricanes had a decision to make about Eric Staal.

The star captain is in the last year of his contract. The Hurricanes sit four points out of the final wild card spot, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have three games in-hand. Keep him and contend? Or deal Staal to the only team for whom he’d waive his no-trade clause? 

According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, it’s the latter: Staal has agreed to a trade that sends him to the New York Rangers, going from his brother Jordan Staal’s Hurricanes to his brother Marc Staal’s Blueshirts.

The Rangers will surrender two second-round picks (2016, 2017) and Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela, a highly-rated offensive center/left wing who was taken in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s currently playing for Assat in the Finnish Liiga, with 31 points in 46 games. He also had a strong showing at the World Juniors.

“Eric has been the face of this franchise for a long time, and we thank him for his dedication, leadership and many contributions on and off the ice over the years,” said Carolina GM Ron Francis. “We felt this was an important opportunity for us to continue our work in building an organization that can consistently compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

One assumes the Hurricanes’ decision to retain 50 percent of Staal’s salary ($9.5 million in actual dollars, $8.25 million against the cap) is what snagged them Saarela along with the picks. That's a pro-rated $4.125 million cap hit for Staal.

It’s a nice haul for a team that only had one option in the trade market for Eric Staal, considering his no-move status. (Reminds us of another Staal trade, actually.)

Where he fits in the Rangers’ lineup will be interesting. One assumes Staal will remain on the wing with the Rangers having Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard as their top two forwards. Maybe a Staal-Stepan-Nash line, when Rick Nash returns from injury, bumping Chris Kreider down the lineup?

It’s an aggressive move from a Rangers team that needed to add a significant piece – although one could argue there was just as much a need on the blueline. Staal makes them a heck of a lot more dangerous offensively, and as the Rangers have shown, that extra goal in the playoffs is sometimes all Lundqvist needs.

Then, thinking to the future … well, we all know Staal is only playing in New York or back in Carolina next year, right? We'll see where this goes.

So, on the Milbury Scale:

TWO MILBURYS. The Rangers now have some firepower to compete with what the Capitals will bring to the postseason, but it’s a significant price to pay. We could look back on this as a foundation-building trade for the Hurricanes – especially if Staal returns to Raleigh after the season.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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