2016 NHL Free Agency: Eric Staal: Can He Regain His Past Greatness?
He hasn't been mentioned a lot, but Eric Staal could be a decent Plan B
The Red Wings are hot in their pursuit of Steven Stamkos. But is there a viable backup plan in place should Detroit be unable to land the highly coveted star? A name that hasn't been mentioned a lot could be a guy to provide a short-term solution for the Wings should Stamkos decide to sign somewhere else.
Height/Weight: 6'4" / 205 Lbs
Born: October 29, 1984 (Age 31)
Hometown: Thunder Bay, ON
Why Should the Wings consider Staal?
To set the record straight from the beginning, Staal should not be thought of as the primary target for the Red Wings to acquire. After his worst season in Carolina since he was a rookie, Staal was traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline, and did very little to assist the Rangers in getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals. He has always been a guy that could be counted on for 50-80 points, but his production really fell off last year both in Carolina and New York.
However, his poor performance last year saw his value crater, and there is the possibility that he could be obtained without a contract that is either too long or too expensive. His possession metrics are still pretty good (with the caveat that he saw more sheltered minutes), and he's only failed to score more than 20 goals in a full season once in his career. He could still offer a team some offensive production in the proper role, as long as a team was willing to take a chance on him. There's also the factor of him wanting to prove that he still can contribute on a good team after his struggles last year.
Should the Wings target Staal?
Emphatically, no. That's not to say that Staal shouldn't be on their radar, however. Plan A should be Stamkos, but Eric Staal isn't the worst Plan B or Plan C in the world. The key would be to ensure that Staal was only signed to a very short term contract. It's unclear whether last year was an aberration or the start of an inevitable decline. The Wings could potentially have an opportunity to take a chance on a former great player and see if he can resurrect his career in Detroit assuming that they strike out on landing any of the better players available.
Staal would fill a need at center, where they are thin following the departure of Pavel Datsyuk. Staal has said that he's looking to be an important player on whatever team he joins next, but doesn't need to be 'the guy'. Working under the premise that he still has more in the tank, he could be a smart, underrated signing on a 1-year, "prove it" kind of deal. For a team that struggled to score and doesn't want to spend all of its money on one player beyond Stamkos, he could be a good fit on a Wings team that may not have great center depth next year. If the Wings fail to get Stamkos, Staal could be the kind of signing that pays off handsomely for a team willing to take a gamble that he's still got something left.