Leafs Clearing Space for Eric Staal?

Eric Staal in a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater would be quite a shock to the NHL world. Staal has been a Carolina Hurricane for a long time, helping them win the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. Some ‘Canes fans have never known their team not to have Staal as its captain.

I was asked recently by a fan if I thought the Leafs’ big trade with the Ottawa Senators was made so they could clear space for Staal? I’m not feeling it personally, but then again who knows?

Staal’s contract ends at the end of this season, and there has been no word from Hurricanes GM Ron Francis as to whether or not Staal will be offered a new deal to stay in Raleigh. Staal’s camp has been silent, as well. All Staal’s agent Rick Curran has said is that he and the team are having discussions. The team apparently has not asked Staal to waive his no-trade clause, yet.

The NHL trade deadline is a little more than two weeks away. The Hurricanes are in an uncharacteristic spot for a team that has missed the playoffs the last six years. They are actually still in the running for a playoff wild card spot. As of today the ‘Canes have 57 points. They are four points out of a wild card spot behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils who both have 61 points. The Montreal Canadiens have 58 points.

The point is that the Hurricanes are still a viable playoff option here in mid-February. This gums up the speculation that Francis might let another playoff-contending team use Staal as a rental. He can’t very well do that while his team is still contending.

While the two sides are talking, the situation is still very much up in the air.

I personally do not see Staal leaving Carolina. He has said repeatedly that he wants to stay in Raleigh. Unless the ‘Canes offer him what he and Curran feel is a ridiculously low number, I think he stays.

‘Canes captain Eric Staal (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

No Phaneuf, No Staal

The Leafs are in the middle of tearing it down before you can build it back up. Trading captain Dion Phaneuf was a big step, and shows that they are open to ripping out the walls. the roof, and all the floors.

Dave Feschuk of www.thestar.com wrote that the Leafs cleared out Phaneuf’s $7 million cap hit in the trade. I don’t think they are going to turn around and load up Staal with a big deal so soon after dumping Phaneuf’s salary.

The Leafs still have a bunch of pending unrestricted free agents to deal with. I see the Leafs’ house being taken to the ground and built back up with draft picks and smart trades. To me. adding Staal to Toronto’s rebuild would not be a smart trade for the Leafs or for Staal.