It’s no secret that the Carolina Hurricanes are struggling, likely headed towards their fifth consecutive early sunset on their season. When a team goes through such an extended stretch of failure, big changes need to be made. This begets rumors and speculation, and “insiders” throwing names of star players onto trading blocks. The ‘Canes are no exception.

On TSN’s “Insider Trading”, Darren Dreger was quoted as saying that it’s “highly likely” Cam Ward is moved this summer. While we’ve known the obvious for awhile — Carolina isn’t going to spend more than $8 million on goaltenders unless they have to — it was the other names that Dreger dropped that caused a stir. Chiefly, Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal.

Skinner has been mentioned as available off and on for what’s felt like the last year. He’s a gifted young scorer with a reasonable contract that any team would love to have. If he could be flipped for another top pairing defender, Jim Rutherford would have to consider it. But Staal is new to the rumor circuit.

Putting aside the ridiculous nature of trading your captain and the face of the franchise, let’s entertain the thought.

First, how would the ‘Canes replace his contribution? Throwing out his first two seemingly outlier seasons of 31 and 100 points respectively, Staal averages 76 points per 82 games for his career. Over that same time period, he’s been the 12th leading scorer in the NHL. That’s legitimate first line center production. Not easily replaced.

While lately younger brother Jordan has looked dangerous during every shift with Alex Semin, he’s reached 50 points just once in his career, albeit in only 62 games. Still, more ice time doesn’t necessarily guarantee more scoring. It seems unrealistic to expect Jordan to suddenly add 25 or more points to his career high.

On the horizon, there aren’t many other options. Elias Lindholm may one day step into a top six center role, but he’s played primarily on the perimeter this year. Victor Rask is more of a bottom six guy, and still has to work out the kinks in his game. Charlotte is not exactly bursting with center talent at the moment.

So maybe replacing his production comes from assets acquired in any Staal deal. But what kind of value should be expected in return?

Eric-StaalAny trade of Staal will have to consider his bloated salary. He’s under contract for two more years at a whopping $8.25 million cap hit and will be paid almost $10 million real dollars in 2015-16. A quick glance shows us that only four teams have the current space available: Colorado, Calgary, Florida, and the New York Islanders. Colorado is waist deep in center depth, and the last three have a smaller internal budget that will prevent taking on such a hefty salary.

If Rutherford were to retain some money in a deal, similar to the trades of Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, it still doesn’t add many destinations. If $3 million is retained, only Edmonton, Buffalo, and Ottawa join the list. All seem unlikely destinations and holding onto dead money defeats part of the purpose of moving Staal anyway.

This, of course, doesn’t factor in the cap going up or offseason moves that can also clear space.

Also worth noting is the existence of Staal’s no trade clause. Most of the time, players will waive it when asked. But Staal could be the exception. He’s been in North Carolina for 11 years. He has a family, and a life. Jordan also lives in the area, and Jared is in Charlotte. Marc may as well start looking for houses.

If Rutherford could somehow find a taker, and get Eric to waive his NTC, likely limiting the options, what kind of return should be expected? Probably not much of one.

Rarely do big names with big time salaries move in the prime of their careers. Though Thomas Vanek and Martin St. Louis were both traded this year, neither returned much more than some late first and second rounders, and a player that’s arguably a tier lower.

Most comparable to a Staal trade would be the departure of Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins. On November 30, 2005, Thornton was sent to San Jose in exchange for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart.

At the time, Sturm was a 20-goal scorer, Primeau was a bottom six grinder, and Stuart was a solid if unspectacular top/middle pairing defenseman. But Thornton was a superstar, the captain and the face of the Bruins, and the hockey world collectively shook it’s head at the result of the deal. Only Sturm lasted more than a parts of two seasons in Boston, and none raised the Cup with them in the summer of 2011.

Should Eric Staal be traded is a question easily answered. It never hurts to listen, but it doesn’t make any sense on any level. Replacing the gaping hole he’d leave and getting fair value in return are almost impossible. If the ‘Canes want to make a splash this offseason, there are other ways to do it. Trading Staal isn’t an option.

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7

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