Firstly, Luke DeCock has an interesting article up where Eric Staal opines on the development in the Hurricanes’ lineup. He doesn’t really say anything surprising; like the rest of us, he thinks the Canes going after big free agents is a good thing, even if they don’t succeed in signing them.
“For me, just the fact that we’re even in the mix, that we threw offers out there to these elite guys, is exciting,” Staal said from Canada, where he’s avoiding the heat. “Sometimes you hear the same teams every year doing the same things. For us to be involved and make a pitch, it was big. We aren’t far off.
“We’ve got some very good pieces in place, and if we can add, like they’re saying, another elite forward, it will definitely put us in the mix among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s exciting. I hope they’ll continue to push — and not just grab anybody, but the right person for our group.”
Secondly, here’s a few words on the Jordan Staal trade and signing:
As of 7/1, Jordan Staal is locked down with the Hurricanes for a whopping 10 years, at the $60 million the Penguins originally offered him. This is, by all accounts, the contract Rutherford had in mind since he picked up the phone and started dealing with Shero. The $6mil/year is all well and good, but like many other people, I think the real benefit lies in getting J. Staal locked down through E. Staal’s contract ending. If the Hurricanes aren’t Godawful (if. IF), then they have a very good chance of signing E. Staal again; and Rutherford has gone back and forth on a lot of things (such as Joe “like an old shoe” Corvo), but he’s always been adamant about E. Staal being a cornerstone of the franchise.
As for the rest of July 1, let’s be honest: Suter and Parise opting out of playing in Carolina was fairly predictable. Suter could go anywhere, including on contending teams, and immediately be a top defenseman. He’s stated that the reason he’s leaving Nashville is because he wants to win, and even with Suter, Carolina would be a long shot for the Cup. Parise’s looking at either going to somewhere like Pittsburgh and being third wheel, or being top dog somewhere like Minnesota. He’d be playing third fiddle in Carolina, and Carolina’s actual competitiveness is way, way closer to Minnesota’s than Pittsburgh’s. It simply doesn’t make sense for him to choose Carolina, unless Carolina sent him a blank check; and Karmanos might’ve opened the purse strings, but the purse is still there.
So what’s left is the Hurricanes courting free agents like Doan and – supposedly – Semin. Whether the Hurricanes want to take a chance on Semin is a separate story; personally, I don’t think Semin’s nearly the lazy demon he’s made out to be, but the Canes appear to be pursuing Doan much more aggressively. And, honestly, I doubt they get him. The Canes still don’t have a lot to offer free agents, what with not making the playoffs for three years straight and all.
That’s all pretty doom and gloom, huh? So now it behooves me to say, I do actually think Carolina is a vastly improved team post-Staal trade/signing. Muller briefly tried Eric Staal on wing towards the end of last year, and it wasn’t an entirely failed experiment; the problem was that the Canes really didn’t have an elite center who was capable of playing on Staal’s level. Jordan Staal could very well be that center. He’s only 23, just coming into his career, and shouldered Pittsburgh for months when Crosby and Malkin were out.
Of course, there’s the minor problem of not knowing if Eric and Jordan have any chemistry. That’ll be worked out fairly quickly; it took neither Maurice nor Muller a long time to work out that Skinner and E. Staal just didn’t play well on a line together. But if Eric can make the transition to wing and Jordan works well with him, then the Hurricanes could have a formidable top two lines for the first time in a very, very long time.
Adding Doan to the mixture would be a benefit, for sure; right now, I still see the Canes as a bubble team, at best a low 6 seed. But let’s be honest: that’s far, far better than they did last year. And J. Staal is good on special teams, which is another plus in his favor, since even post-Muller, the Canes’ penalty kill wasn’t that great.
All in all, things are looking up. Nabbing Doan or Semin would just make things better.