We're but two weeks away from the highly-lustered NHL Trade Deadline on February 29th. There hasn't been much noise on the Red Wings' front, and it remains to be seen if there will be this season. We're gonna keep stirring the pot because why wouldn't we?
I'm throwing out a name that hasn't been mentioned very often. A veteran, because you know how we just love taking those pending-UFA vets and putting them in a Winged Wheel. The Red Wings have done this for years, even in the salary cap era. The name I'm throwing out there today is that of Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal. The 31-year-old 12-year NHL veteran hasn't scored less than 50 points since his NHL debut in 2003. The Hurricanes are a team in transition, on the brink of being a playoff team, but perhaps one or two key pieces away from solidifying themselves in the NHL's most highly-touted.
Staal told the media in Ottawa (video found from PuckDaddy) "I’m not going to be crushed if a decision is made and I’m moving on for a different opportunity," so this gives the notion that there might be a move that is imminent.
Why it makes sense to trade for Eric Staal
Number one reason, right off the bat - Put him between Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the top line and let them go nuts with all of their veteran wisdom, and elite skill. You gotta love the thought of that, right?
Staal really fits the Red Wings model of being a highly-skilled two-way center who can be put in all situations, and play big chunks of ice time. In terms of play, Eric Staal is one of the biggest possession-driving hogs on his team, despite his age. His 5v5 Score Adjusted CF% is a monstrous 56.75, while his Relative CF% is a team-leading 5.46. No doubt about it, Bill Peters has developed his team into a very strong puck possession squad, but the addition of Staal to the Red Wings would give them one of, if not the best center depth charts in the entire league.
Not only are his possession metrics fantastic, his ability to generate scoring chances is intriguing as well. Through 57 games, Staal's Relative Scoring Chance For Percentage is hovering at 6.43 at 5v5 (score adjusted). When you factor everything together, Eric Staal would be a very enticing trade target. The cons could highly outweigh the pros in the eyes of Ken Holland, though...
Why it doesn't make sense to trade for Eric Staal
First one right off the bat, he's on the butt-end of his contract, and is looking like he would end up being an unrestricted free agent this summer. Along with that, he has a hefty cap hit of $8.25 million - A sizable chunk of the cap that would either need to be cleared, or absorbed by the Hurricanes. If I've learned anything about moving contracts, it's that the concern doesn't lay with the amount of money, it's how long that amount of money is being paid.
Eric Staal also has a no-trade clause, which he has yet to be asked if he will waive. Judging by the comments made by Staal earlier this week, that could be more plausible than one would think. There hasn't been any indication on what Carolina would likely ask for Staal, but I think we can all agree that it will start at a 1st round pick and a prospect at the same tier to that of Anthony Mantha. Keep in mind, this is just my projection. Could he end up going for less? Yep. Could he end up going for more? Uh-huh. Also worth mentioning that Teemu Pulkkinen is a player that Carolina would have absolute interest in. Hey, they'd actually use him, too.
Another big counterpoint to this all is what do you do after this season? Do you simply let him go, and deal with the fact that you sunk assets for a rental? If you make a deep run into the playoffs, then it's definitely worth the risk. However, The Red Wings may or may not be further away from Stanley Cup glory than we think. Staal definitely gets them closer, but he doesn't put them over the top. I think if possible the Hurricanes and Red Wings could make a multi-player deal happen that really pushes the Wings closer to ultra-contention, and the Canes closer to the end of their rebuild (it's close. Very close,) then yeah you take that risk. Otherwise you're stuck kicking tires on another aging forward who will demand term, and money.
Likelihood of happening: 5/10
Honestly, the only reason I have it as high as five is the fact that I know Ken Holland would jump out of his chair, put on his boots, and drop-kick a tire all the way to Belle Isle. What keeps it from going into a higher likelihood is the fact that Eric Staal has a no-trade clause. The team can't trade him unless he waives it and believes that his destination is acceptable for him.
I think out of all forwards out there in trade speculation right now, Staal is atop the list for guys I would love to add to the team. If Ken Holland is willing to make a move like this, he has to be willing to make another to bolster a different position of need. Yes, folks. If Eric Staal comes to Detroit, it would likely need to be a blockbuster deal.