Today on an otherwise fairly quiet rainy Tuesday in Raleigh, a bomb dropped about mid-day about a rumor that Eric Staal was asking for $9 million per year. The article was on The Hockey News but the source was actually Renaud Lavoie from Le Journal de Montreal.
Today’s story and this situation could be analyzed on seemingly a dozen different levels.
I do not have the time to dig into Renaud Lavoie or Le Journal de Montreal’s credibility or track record on this kind of thing, but let me come at it more generally:
1) There has been a ton of noise coming out of Quebec for some time now much of it centered around Quebec City being a possible destination for the Hurricanes based on the team being for sale. If you are not up to date or have read only “the sky is falling” articles on that topic, I suggest reading my post from earlier this summer HERE.
This whole situation continues to puzzle me. Quebec City is 1 of 2 finalists for what is expected to be 2 expansion teams. The NHL is not putting 2 teams in Quebec City. So ???? !!!! More directly, there is a strange media agenda coming out of Quebec City right now with a spotlight on the Carolina Hurricanes, so I think that must be considered for this specific rumor and probably others.
2) At another level, this kind of thing will only intensify as the season rolls on with Eric Staal unsigned past this season. And if Steven Stamkos re-signs in Tampa, I would expect a full Staal-mageddon to ensue as the Toronto media that seems to rate Stamkos as #1 shifts next to Eric Staal.
3) But here is the thing. Ron Francis has proven to be incredibly quiet both himself and in terms of what has leaked out from other sources. Since he took over as general manager, 1400 Edwards Mill Road has been on leak lockdown. I cannot recall hearing a single Canes rumor more than a few hours before things happening. Nothing on Eddie Lack or James Wisniewski. Nothing on Kris Versteeg. Etc. With Eric Staal’s long-term relationship with the team, I will be surprised if his camp starts playing media games. So the upshot is that I am instantly skeptical of any and all rumors involving Eric Staal and am not so sure that ‘where there is smoke there is fire’ applies in this case except that there are angry mobs of fans and media in Toronto who despite mumbling about patience here and there are running around with cans of gasoline trying to see what stories they can ignite that has a Stanley Cup parade in Toronto in the summer of 2017.
IF the rumor were true, what would it mean?
Very simply, Eric Staal asking for $9 million per year would be the politically correct way to say “I want to leave.” Even if he does leave, I will be shocked if either he or his camp says that he wanted out. That is not how it works. He instead talks about how he enjoyed his time with the Hurricanes and appreciates everything that the team and fan base did for him, how a deal just could not be reached and how he is looking forward to joining _____.
But the politically correct speak is no less direct in terms of working with Ron Francis. Unless the $9 million number is clearly perceived to be a starting point for negotiation, Francis will catch on real quickly that Eric Staal wants out and the process will shift to trying to work within the limitations of his no-trade clause to collect as much as possible for him.
Interestingly, this route of Eric Staal putting forward a real big number could actually smooth the way with Jordan Staal. He would obviously be privy to what his brother was up to, and in this scenario it would be Eric choosing to leave, not the team doing him wrong. Might he still want out? Sure. But he understands that it is a business, and it is also unlikely that a team that takes on Eric Staal for $9 million per year would also have the trade assets and cap space to also take Jordan for $6M. At that point the two are separated anyway and just maybe Jordan is content to be part of a rebuilding process that based on this summer does not look to be too far out.
What should Ron Francis do?
I am still pretty much where I started the summer. If the Hurricanes brain trust believes that Eric Staal is the right leader to lead this team back to the playoffs and beyond, then I am on board with re-signing him for reasonable term (up to 4 years possibly 5 depending on $ amount) and reasonable cost (something like $6-7 million per year with a little more than $7 million being a grumbling stretch). In Ron Francis, Rod Brind’Amour, Glen Wesley, Cory Stillman and Bill Peters the Canes have a qualified team to evaluate him as the team’s leader. I wrote about this in some detail on Hockeybuzz before launching Canes and Coffee. You can find that blog HERE.
What is the time table?
Both Ron Francis and Eric Staal’s camp are on record as being in no incredible hurry and working to no particular schedule. Externally this will not change. But I have to believe that Ron Francis’ desired time table is actually in play right now. Every time Eric Staal steps on the ice, he runs the risk due to injury of going instantly from being worth a pretty good package of young players and prospects that the Canes would need to backfill his slot to a very expensive monthly bill (he earns $9.5 million this season) whose trade value is a conditional mid-round pick because he is on the shelf until he becomes an unrestricted free agent anyway.
I cannot imagine that Ron Francis wants to play this game of roulette 3-4 times per week starting on October 8. It makes more sense to either extend the contract or collect assets for rebuilding and replacing Eric Staal. Francis obviously does not hold all of the cards with many teams simply unable to fit him under the salary cap right now and Eric Staal possessing a no-trade clause. But I still have to believe that he has a strong preference to resolve this sooner rather than later and that it is written in pen on the top of his priority list.
What do I think will happen?
I continue to think that Eric Staal wants to stay with the team (my hunch, not rumor or direct input from inside the process), and I have to imagine that his camp gets the financial realities of what it will take to make that happen. And though Staal’s camp does not have nearly the risk to wait a little while, I think with the season starting that enough negotiating power has shifted to Eric Staal’s side (per risks above) that they could get a deal done.
I would not be surprised to see Eric Staal re-signed either before or very early in the season. And I do think that we are at the point where if it does not happen, it does mean something. Does it mean that it will not happen? No. But does it mean either that Eric Staal wants out or that the 2 sides are working at it but struggling a bit? I think it does.
Do you think that Eric Staal will ultimately re-sign with the Hurricanes?
- Yes (75%, 86 Votes)
- No (25%, 28 Votes)
Total Voters: 114
If you do think Eric Staal will re-sign with the Hurricanes, when?
- In the middle of the season -November through January (41%, 35 Votes)
- After the regular season starts but in October (25%, 21 Votes)
- Fairly close to the trade deadline - February through March (15%, 13 Votes)
- Before the regular season starts (7%, 6 Votes)
- After the trade deadline but before free agency opens - April through June (6%, 5 Votes)
- Only after testing the free agent market next July (6%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 85
If you expect him to re-sign, for what yearly cost?
- At least $6 million but less than $7 million per year (60%, 49 Votes)
- At least $7 million but less than $8 million per year (33%, 27 Votes)
- Less than $6 million per year (5%, 4 Votes)
- At least $8 million per year (2%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 82
If you think Eric Staal will ultimately leave the Hurricanes, when and how?
- Near the trade deadline in March (53%, 39 Votes)
- Via trade in the middle of the season (November through mid-February) (23%, 17 Votes)
- As a free agent next July or later (11%, 8 Votes)
- Via trade early in the season (October) (7%, 5 Votes)
- Via a conditional trade after the season ends but before free agency (7%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 74