Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis said that Eric Staal’s contract demands were fair, but with the plan he has for the organization, he wasn’t comfortable going with a long-term deal for the 31-year old forward.
Staal’s future in Carolina was in question once the off-season arrived and talk about whether the long-time Hurricanes captain would re-sign began to surface. As the season dragged on and there was no extension in sight, it was clear Francis was better off dealing Staal for assets that will help the organization in the future.
So on Sunday afternoon, after talks heated up with the New York Rangers, Staal agreed to waive his no-movement clause and head to the Big Apple. He leaves behind not only the only franchise he’s ever known, but also his brother, Jordan, who signed a 10-year, $60 million deal in 2012 after being traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s obviously unfortunate,” Jordan Staal said after Carolina’s 5-2 loss on Sunday afternoon. “For myself, coming here, we wanted to win. We gave it all we got to try to get this team to where we wanted to go. We understand when things don’t go well things change. It’s something that we’ll have to swallow. I’m sure Eric’s looking forward to playing on a good team having a chance to hopefully win a Cup.”
The Hurricanes are four points back of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, a surprise to many this late in the season. But Francis’ plan for this team doesn’t culminate with this season. With a solid prospect pool and building blocks in Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jeff Skinner, and Elias Lindholm, among others, adding more assets to the cupboard by dealing Staal will help their future fortunes.
“You’re kind of sitting there looking where you’re at and this group has played some really good hockey from December to this point and they’re working hard and you never want to have to do this,” Francis said. “But when you look at the big picture, we couldn’t get comfortable on a contract term, you can’t lose an asset like that for nothing. It’s too important to the franchise moving forward. So we went ahead and made the deal.
“I feel thankful that Eric was willing to waive the no-move. He didn’t have to do that. He did it in order to allow us to do this and we feel it gives us some building blocks to continue to move forward in the direction we want to go in.”
Francis added that the Hurricanes will likely go captain-less for the rest of this season. Replacing Staal, who was team captain since Jan. 2010, as the main leader in the room is a tall task, and these final 18 games will give the GM and head coach Bill Peters a good idea of who might be able to step up.
As painful as it was to say goodbye to their captain, the deal helps both parties. Carolina gets pieces for the future and Staal gets an opportunity to win his second Stanley Cup.
“I think this change will be a good opportunity for him,” said Francis. “He’ll go to New York, it’s a good team, and get to play with some players who have had a lot of success, and I think he can just play the game. He won’t have to bear the burden of wearing the ‘C’ and being the leader.”
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