Eric Staal trade could benefit slumping Hurricanes

In case you haven’t noticed, the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t doing too hot this season.

The team is 2-7-1 over their last 10 games and lingers near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The team fired their head coach last week and then followed up that move by trading defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Montreal Canadiens, a player they signed as a free agent over the summer to a three-year deal. With all this going on, it appears more and more likely that the Hurricane’s are gearing up for something big.

That something big could be an implosion.

The team traded away Kaberle to the Montreal Canadiens for Jaroslav Spacek in return. Carolina arguably got the short end of the stick as Spacek is older (37 as opposed to 33) and offers less offensively than Kaberle is capable of producing.  So why would Carolina want to take him on?

Trade bait.

Spacek is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Despite his advanced age, he remains a proven NHL veteran and could add depth to the blue line of a team looking to make a deep playoff run. If a trade occurs, Carolina could stock up on draft picks and prospects in exchange for Spacek.

The Kaberle/Spacek trade could have signaled the beginning of a rebuilding process in Carolina. Spacek could be the first piece, and players like Alex Panikarovski, Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu could also be trade bait come trade deadline time.

The real issue, however, is how far the Hurricanes are willing to go in their rebuilding process. Mainly, will they shop current captain Eric Staal?

Staal was drafted second overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Hurricanes and has basically been the face of the franchise since. He has scored 30 or more goals in five of his seven NHL seasons, and twice tallied 40 or more. Not to mention that Staal, at 27-years-old, is right in the prime of his career and will be for several more seasons.

What could make Staal expandable is another young star on the Carolina roster. Jeff Skinner came into the league last season as an 18-year-old rookie and not only won a roster spot, but went on to contribute 31 goals and 63 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year. This season, Skinner basically picked up where he left off and currently leads the Hurricanes in goals (12) and points (24).

Could the success of Skinner prompt the Hurricanes to trade away Eric Staal? After all, Staal makes $8.25 million a season while Skinner is only in his second season of an entry-level contract that pays him $1.4 million per year. After next season, Skinner will become a restricted free agent and Carolina could try to lock him up long term for a cap-friendly figure. A player of Staal’s caliber could warrant a significant return and help speed up the rebuilding process for Carolina.

Still, Staal trade speculation remains far-fetched. But the general likelihood that Carolina enters a rebuilding phase appears more probable with each loss this season. The team has two legitimate stars in Staal and Skinner and is set in goal with Cam Ward. The team needs to find a way to surround their stars with capable secondary scoring and a legitimate blue line. Carolina is second worst in the NHL in goals allowed per game with 3.38 and 20th in the league in goals scored per game with 2.5. It’s becoming clear that Carolina just doesn’t have the pieces of the puzzle to be a legitimate contender.

The Spacek trade may have been the first step, but it likely will not be the last move for Carolina this season. An implosion and a move toward rebuilding may be a necessary step now if Carolina intends to build a winner for the future.


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