After missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season, the ‘Canes know there are likely to be major changes this summer — changes that could include two of the most prominent faces from the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning team, Eric Staal and Cam Ward.
Ward has been the subject of persistent possible trades after he was beaten out by Anton Khudobin. The team carried three goalies for the final month of the season, a rarity in the NHL.
“I definitely want to be a Hurricane moving forward,” Ward said.
He and Staal are the only remaining links to the Carolina team that won the Stanley Cup in 2006. They’ve only made the playoffs once since then, reaching the Eastern Conference final in 2009.
Asked if he could see himself going to another team, Staal said he has “never thought that, dreamed that or wanted that.
“I’ve been here a long time, I love it here and I’ve had success here and I know and I believe that we can again and I can be a part of that,” Staal said.
In late February, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that all three Carolina netminders — Ward, Khudobin and Justin Peters — were made available via trade, but that narrative shifted after Khudobin signed a two-year, $4.5 million extension just prior to the deadline, leaving Carolina’s financial situation in goal looking like this:
When Ward wasn’t moved at the deadline, the possibility of a compliance buyout came up. Carolina has yet to use one of its two and would save considerable cap space by utilizing it on the former Conn Smythe winner.
As for Staal, he was put on notice earlier this week in a piece from the Raleigh News & Observer, which claimed the captain acknowledged he’d lost the support of some ‘Canes fans:
It wasn’t anything Eric Staal said Tuesday, as he autopsied the Carolina Hurricanes’ failure for the fifth straight time as captain, that touched on the real problem. It was something he said Thursday night, after a heartless, soulless loss to the Washington Capitals that encapsulated every complaint fans have about this team.
“Whether people think that or not, I’m out there competing as hard as I can,” Staal said.
So there are no secrets here. Staal is aware the fans aren’t happy with what they perceive as a lack of effort and leadership, correctly or incorrectly, and he acknowledged Tuesday there’s work to be done to rebuild that relationship.
Compounding matters is Staal’s gigantic contract which, at $8.25 million, carries the NHL’s fifth-largest annual cap hit. Staal is a quality player but has seen his star power diminish over the last few seasons — as evidence, consider that he was named to the gold-medal winning Olympic team four years ago, yet failed to make the cut, even as a replacement, for the ’14 team that won it all in Sochi.