Eric Staal Imploding Contract

Eric Staal is in the final year of his huge contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. His seven-year $57 million deal is will be up and he will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. As the season has progressed the ‘Canes and Staal have kept any details about negotiations off of the front burner. But, Staal’s play thus far may be imploding the size of any deal he hopes to sign in Carolina or elsewhere.

The Numbers

A lot of coaches across the sports spectrum say, “We are what our record says we are.” This often is fairly accurate, although some teams are better than their record and some teams are worse. The same applies to players.

For years Staal has put up numbers that do not justify eight or nine million dollars a year. However, fans have been content to give him a pass during several of those years due to injuries he dealt and many times played through. But, this year is different.

There have been no reports about any injury situations related to Staal. He has played in 25 games this season and has a grand total of 14 points, four goals and 10 assists. Only one of his goals has been scored on a power play. (Read Hurricanes Power Play Needs Juice).

14 points ranks him 118th in the league. This is not good for a guy sitting across a desk saying, “Sign me up for another five or six years and pay me millions again.”

Many Hurricanes fans in Raleigh are getting restless.

It’s tough anymore to argue that Staal is an elite player deserving of millions a year. Sure he was on the team in 2006 that won the Stanley Cup. So was Cam Ward, who could just as easily be the subject of this article with the season he is having. (Ward is sporting a .898 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average). Neither Staal nor Ward are the players they were when they cashed in years ago and got the fat contracts with the no-trade clauses.

Rumors

If you look at social media even casually you will find a plethora of rumors about many players. Staal has lately been the rumor subject of choice across many social media platforms. Here is one that I actually think might make sense:

I read recently that the Montreal Canadiens are in good shape except on their fourth line. They need another forward. Would Eric Staal waive his no-trade clause to go from the cellar of the Metropolitan Division immediately to the top of the Atlantic with the Habs? Would he settle for playing on a fourth line if that is where he was needed?

Here is the analysis by Lyle Richardson of The Bleacher Report:

“Staal could be a valuable playoff rental near the trade deadline for the Canadiens. Freeing up Eller’s salary gives the Habs room to pursue another forward via free agency in July, as well. Eller is signed through 2017-18 at an affordable $3.5 million. He could reach his offensive potential with the Hurricanes. Fucale won’t get a starter’s job in Montreal, but he could earn one in Carolina.”

I like it. With Eddie Lack playing so poorly for the ‘Canes, why not bring in another goalie to Carolina?

The Habs are in Raleigh Saturday night to face the Hurricanes. Some of their fans like the idea of s Staal to Montreal trade:

Audition?

Last Thursday night the ‘Canes were embarrassed by the New Jersey Devils. A caller to the post-game radio show said, “I’ve been a season ticket holder for 14 years and that was the worst I’ve ever seen the Hurricanes play. It was pathetic.”

One bright spot in the game, however was that Staal got physical for the first time in a long time. He absolutely pounded Eric Gelinas:

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It was an uncharacteristic night for Staal, who played the third period like a different guy. He seemed angry and for once was hitting and getting serious about being physical. If Staal played like that every night, this team would be markedly different. It might be worth having Ron Francis re-sign him just to see if that becomes the norm. Sadly there is not much confidence in that.

It makes me wonder if he might have been putting on a show for the incoming Habs?

Last week Andrew Gross with www.northjersey.com penned a great piece on Staal and Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks. Both players are in similar contract situations. Of Staal Gross wrote,

“The Hurricanes appear headed for a seventh straight season out of the playoffs, and that would be nine of 10 seasons without postseason play since they won the organization’s lone Stanley Cup in 2006. It’s only logical the Hurricanes would be better off trying to get a first-round pick and/or a prospect for their captain rather than commit to another expensive contract.”

That really is what it has come down to – the future of this organization. It’s tough to imagine that Staal will suddenly become an impact player again if he inks a new long-term deal with Carolina. He has said himself that he wants to stay here. I want him to stay here from an emotional point of view, but from a “what’s best for the future of the team” point of view, it may be time to sever ties with the captain.

The “X-Factor”

The “X-factor” in all of this is Staal’s agent Rick Curran. This tweet was posted Friday:

It was reported a couple of weeks ago that between Thanksgiving and Christmas Curran and Francis would be getting together. Curran is no slouch. If anyone might be able to land Staal another fat deal in Raleigh it’s Curran.

But, my favorite text of the past few days was from a friend who was commenting on the play of Ward and Staal and typed, “Do you think Rick Curran is throwing pumpkin pie at his TV?” He might have. Maybe it was Curran who lit a fire under Staal and told him to hit somebody. One thing is certain: Curran better move fast because unless Staal starts to play better, his chances of getting a big fat contract will continue to implode.

Mark Shiver is a staff writer for The Hockey Writers credentialed with the Carolina Hurricanes. You can follow him on Twitter @markshiver