The Maple Leafs are in Carolina to play the Hurricanes tonight, and you know what that means – Eric Staal trade talk!
You might remember a couple of weeks ago when Toronto radio personality Bill Watters reported a Staal-to-the-Leafs trade was imminent.
‘Canes general manager Jim Rutherford quickly denied the report, but Staal was still asked about it yesterday by the traveling Toronto media.
“To be honest I wasn’t that worried about it,” said Staal, as per the Toronto Sun. “Those are things that are out of my control. If it comes to me, I’ll deal with the situation when it arises.
“It’s obviously nice that Jim said what he said. He’s a guy I have the most respect for and someone I won a Stanley Cup with.
“This is a great organization. I’ve won a Stanley Cup here. I’ve started a family here. I’ve got some good people to work with. Obviously it’s been a tough season for not only myself but for everyone here. Any time that is the case there are rumours that start and everything that goes along with it. But for me, I’m just going to continue to work, continue to try to improve as a player and know that there are better days ahead.”
Staal continues to struggle in Carolina, with just seven goals in 38 games. In his last six games, he hasn’t registered a single point.
For Leafs fans, the prospect of Staal between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul is a tempting one to ponder. No disrespect to Tyler Bozak, who’s been much better this season – he’s not in Staal’s league though. That goes for every center on the Leafs.
In all likelihood the whole thing was just a myth. But we’re a hockey blog. Trade rumors pay the bills.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.
Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.
Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.
Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)
Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.
But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.
They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.
Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.
Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.
Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?
So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.