Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes C
2015-16 stats: 57 games, 9 goals, 21 assists, minus-1 rating, 19:24 ATOI
Cap hit: $8.25 million
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent after 2015-16 season
Staal is absolutely the wild card of this quartet, as the noticeable difference between him and the previous three forwards is his massive contract. Staal probably isn’t due for much of a raise after this season, but the Hurricanes captain will not be easy for the Blackhawks to take on without Carolina eating a significant portion of his contract.
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Staal has only known the Hurricanes in his NHL career, currently in his 12th season with the club. He’s reliable, having missed 22 games in his entire career (yes, really). His stats are down this season, surrounded by mostly crap, but he boasts 20 or more goals nine times, 30 or more assists 10 times and a Stanley Cup in 2006. And while he’s not a typical wing, his offensive capabilities, along with his previous postseason experience, would certainly be appreciated by the Blackhawks. He’s also an extra guy at the faceoff dot, and he’s actually good at winning draws (54.5 percent for this season, 48.6 percent for his career). On top of that, he carries a 62.71 Corsi-for rate, though his zone starts are cushy. And, as the other three forwards are, he’s pretty big (6-foot-4, 205 pounds).
So there’s a lot of positives. But we come right back to that contract, and the cost of all this. Moving on Staal could be a potential disaster for the Blackhawks longer-term, unless Bowman is able to play the “you have a ton of free agents to sign this offseason” card (Carolina has 11 on its active roster alone). I’m not really sure what direction Carolina is headed right now regarding its future, but if the Canes decide it’s time for a semi-legitimate rebuild, tossing away Staal would be a step toward that. The Canes would just have to eat half his contract, minimum. Which would give them some leverage in the asking price, something I wouldn’t want to imagine for a guy who’s also a team captain.
Basically, this one is a long-shot.
Percent chance of Staal coming to Chicago: 5 percent
So, which of these four guys, if any, do you think could be wearing an Indian Head soon? Let us know in the comments.