Eric Staal to the Rangers is finally done. The Canes franchise center got his wish after waving his no-trade clause only to the team he wanted to play for.
The Rangers acquired Staal from Carolina for two second round picks and Finnish forward prospect Aleksi Saarela. Saarela was selected in the third round of the 2015 Draft. He had a good World Junior Championship posting four goals and three assists helping Finland win the gold medal at the Under-20 WJC in Helsinki. He has 18 goals and 13 assists in 46 games for SM-Lilga in Finland.
At 31, Staal is in the final year of his contract. Clearly, he’s a rental for the Blueshirts, who are in Win Now mode. By joining the Rangers for the remainder of the regular season and postseason, he’ll get to play with younger brother Marc. A unique situation for the Staal brothers. It’s a chance to win a Stanley Cup together. The elder Staal won a Cup with the Canes in ’05-06.
Interestingly, Marc is the only one of the three brothers currently playing in the NHL who hasn’t won a Cup. Jordan won one with the Penguins in ’08-09. Ironically, he played with Eric in Raleigh after being dealt from Pittsburgh. So now you have the other two teaming up on Broadway to deliver the franchise’s first championship in 22 years.
With a core that’s been together a while having come close in 2014 and 2015, the time is now to win. With Henrik Lundqvist turning 34 in 3 days plus elder statesmen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal showing wear and tear, going for it now is the right move. Even if I hate giving away a good prospect and two more picks, GM Jeff Gorton didn’t give up anyone off the roster. That’s a big win. Especially if Rick Nash continues to be sidelined with his unpredictable bone bruise leg injury that continues to not heal.
The Canes were reportedly interested in Chris Kreider or either Kevin Hayes or Oscar Lindberg. They wanted a first round pick which Gorton steadfastly refused to include. The Canes didn’t have any option due to Eric Staal only open to a trade here. He did a good job.
This season, the now former Hurricane has struggled with only 10 goals and 23 assists. However, he did play for the Canes and it had gotten stale. Especially with the trade rumors and discussion about his future this summer when he’ll become unrestricted.
Maybe a change of scenery can help. Since winning the Cup, Staal has only seen the playoffs once. That came back in 2009 when he led the Canes to the Conference Final. He had a memorable series clincher in a classic first round against the Devils in Game 7. Staal had a great postseason posting 10 goals and eight assists. For his playoff career, he’s a point-per-game totaling 19 goals and 24 helpers for 43 points in 43 games.
The Rangers are banking on Staal’s past experience helping them get over the hump. It should be intriguing to see how Staal performs on the big stage.