Hurricanes’ No. 1 center and franchise icon Eric Staal is in the rumor mill, and not surprisingly, the Toronto Maple Leafs are thought to be keenly interested in the 6-foot-4 pivot.
In their quest to land a true first-line center, the Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly cast their eyes south to Carolina and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Maple Leafs held discussions with the Hurricanes during the summer, but the asking price could be “enormous.”
McKenzie speculates such a move could cost the Leafs either Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak (as the Hurricanes would need a center to replace Staal), a first-round pick and perhaps defenseman Jake Gardiner, but he believes it’s a price the Leafs are willing to pay.
The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons weighed in, claiming there haven’t been any recent discussions between the Leafs and Canes. Simmons feels it could cost Kadri and Gardiner, but considers adding a first-rounder in the deal too much for Staal.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also chimed in, noting Staal, who turns 30 on Oct. 29, is bound to attract considerable interest around the league. Despite the Hurricanes’ struggles, both this season and in recent years, Friedman argues there’s no guarantee they’ll trade their captain.
McKenzie, Simmons and Friedman all agree Staal ultimately controls the situation. He has a full no-trade clause, and enjoys playing in Carolina with his brother Jordan. The Hurricanes are also the only NHL team he’s ever played for and he’s committed to helping new GM Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters reverse the club’s fortunes.
In addition to what could be an lofty asking price, Staal’s salary eats a big chunk of payroll. He’s got cap hit of $8.25 million, earning $9.25 million in salary this season and $9.5 million next season.
It could prove extremely difficult to find teams with cap space to comfortably absorb his cap hit willing to pony up the expensive return the Hurricanes will surely seek. A better time for such a move could be at the March 2, 2015 trade deadline, the draft in June or during the opening week of free agency in July.
This could become a situation akin to that of the Ottawa Senators with Jason Spezza this past summer. If, like Spezza, Staal is unwilling to sign a new contract before his current deal expires in July 2016, the Hurricanes could consider peddling him next July, when there will be more teams with available cap space because of the rising cap ceiling. That should increase the number of bidders, potentially making it more difficult for the Leafs to land Staal.
THE PETRY DISH: STILL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry remains the focus of attention in the NHL rumor mill. Elliotte Friedman notes Petry was a healthy scratch in a recent game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Friedman feels if Petry isn’t good enough for the Oilers to dress for that game, it’s time to move him.
Despite suggestions of Petry being the Oilers best defenseman, Friedman raises a good point. Competitive teams don’t make their top blueliner a healthy scratch heading into a tilt against the defending champs. If the move was made to send a message to Petry or the rest of the lineup, it was lost when the Kings crushed the Oilers 6-1.
Friedman notes Petry is an unrestricted free agent in July and doesn’t expect him to re-sign, calling upon Oilers management to avoid a season-long distraction over his contract status by trading him. The Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks seek a right-handed defenseman and Petry could address that need for either club. TSN’s Darren Dreger also believes Petry could be dealt, though he expects it could happen in a month’s time.
Dreger doesn’t expect they’ll get much in return, perhaps a draft pick. The Oilers, however, could hold out in hopes of landing an experienced center. The Red Wings have considerable depth in young centers and could dangle one of them for Petry.
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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