As the upcoming NHL season draws near, the Carolina Hurricanes and captain Eric Staal have yet to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension. Staal, 31, is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. If he tests the market in July, there's a good chance he'll be the top player available.
Le Journal de Montreal's Renaud Lavoie created a stir earlier this week claiming Staal was seeking $9 million annually on his new contract. NBC Sports' Mike Halford cited Lavoie's report, noting the Hurricanes center is earning $9.5 million in actual salary this season, while his annual cap hit is $8.25 million.
Considering Staal's production has steadily declined in recent seasons, seeking $9-million annually is certainly an eyebrow raiser. Halford suggested it could simply be an opening bid from the Staal camp, noting Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano reportedly made the same request before settling for $6.75 million annually. He also speculated it could be Staal's way of putting himself outside the Hurricanes' price range.
Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski subsequently noted TSN's Bob McKenzie disputed Lavoie's report. McKenzie states that Staal hasn't asked for anything yet and the two sides haven't even exchanged salary numbers. Still, it cast a bit of a sobering pall over the possibility of the two sides reaching an agreement on a new contract.
Previous reports claim talks were cordial between the Staal camp and Hurricanes management. At this point, it appears both sides could wait to determine how the upcoming season unfolds before getting down to serious discussions. The Canes will want to evaluate Staal's performance, while the captain will want to see if there's any significant improvement in the team's play. This could drag on into the new year.
SCHENNS STILL CONSIDERED TRADE TARGETS
Trade rumors continue to dog Philadelphia Flyers' brothers Brayden and Luke Schenn this week. It's believed GM Ron Hextall still hopes to shed salary and free up a roster spot for a younger player before the season opens.
Philly.com's Jeff Neiburg suggests Luke, 25, could be a trade candidate, but feels his $3.6-million cap hit might be difficult to move. If Hextall decides to trade a defenseman, Nieburg speculates Radko Gudas could be a possibility.
TSN's Darren Dreger believes Brayden, 24, could be moved at some point in the season. He suggests the St. Louis Blues as an option, claiming they're seeking a top-nine forward. However, Dreger feels Brayden's salary ($2.75 million in actual salary, $2.5-million cap hit) might be too expensive for the Blues and a lot of other teams.
The Blues currently have just over $1.186 million in cap space, meaning the Flyers must accept a salaried player in return or pick up part of his remaining salary. Either option defeats the purpose of moving Brayden in the first place.
ZAJAC CAMP KILLS RUMOR
New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac recently weighed in on the trade rumors week linking him to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Zajac, 30, told NJ.com's Rich Chere he's unconcerned about the speculation, adding he wants to remain with the Devils. Chere claims the Devils aren't opposed to move Zajac, but noted he has a no-trade clause. Zajac's agent, Kurt Overhardt went one step further, telling TSN's Darren Dreger there was “absolutely no truth” to media speculation claiming his client would be traded.
It's not unusual for a player and his agent to deny trade speculation, only to see that player subsequently getting dealt after all. In this case, however, it's unlikely this is a case of misdirection.
Zajac's carrying an expensive contract ($5.75-million annually) for six more seasons and his production has steadily eroded since his career-high 67-point effort in 2009-10. While the Devils probably aren't adverse to shedding his contract, it's highly unlikely any team is interested in picking that up.
If the Devils want to move Zajac, provided he's willing to waive his no-trade clause, they'll have to absorb part of his cap hit to make him more enticing in the trade market. Even then, the lengthy of term remaining on his contract is a likely deal killer.
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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