<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers

Does Eric Staal want to stay in Carolina?

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So, according to Le Journal de Montreal’s Renaud Lavoie, ‘Canes captain Eric Staal is seeking a $9 million annual salary on his new deal.

That’s… interesting.

For starters, let’s get one thing straight — Staal’s ask is high, but that’s how these things work. One side high-balls, the other side low-balls. It’s Pawn Stars, basically.

The real story is what’s behind the ask. In the case of Giordano, it was about getting fair market value; he was coming off a Norris-worthy campaign and, given the big-money deals signed by fellow blueliners — like P.K. Subban — it was time to get his. The Flames understood it, and both parties knew he was staying in Calgary.

So that was that.

In other instances, though, the ask can mean something totally different.

It can force the way out.

There was some belief that Dougie Hamilton‘s financial demands were, in part, to get out of Boston. Those rumblings got louder when Bruins GM Don Sweeney said he made Hamilton a “very significant contract offer,” and even louder when Hamilton wouldn’t deny he wanted to leave the organization.

Same thing with Ryan O'Reilly in Colorado.

The two sides already had a contentious relationship prior to his June trade to Buffalo. After the trade went down, the the Denver Post reported O’Reilly wanted to become the NHL’s youngest $8-million man, which Colorado balked at:

O’Reilly’s camp told the Avs he wanted $64 million over eight years, equaling an $8 million cap hit. O’Reilly is 24, and apparently not thrilled with his $6.2 million salary in 2015-16.

He wants to become the only $8 million man under 25; [Steve] Stamkos, 25, is at $5.5M salary, $7.5M cap hit.

Again, some saw the big ask as a way of getting out, which O’Reilly did. Not long after landing in Buffalo, he “settled” for a seven-year, $52.5 million deal that pays $7.5 million annually.

Which brings us back to Staal.

He turns 31 in a month, and is in the last of a monster seven-year, $57.75 million deal with a $8.25M cap hit. Given his age, declining production and the fact Carolina’s in the midst of a rebuild, it’s entirely possible this ask puts him out of the ‘Canes financial reach.

Which could be part of the plan.

Yes, Staal likes playing with his brother and has deep ties to Carolina, given he’s spent his entire 11-year career there. But this summer could be Staal’s last chance at a significant payday; assuming Steve Stamkos and Anze Kopitar get locked in, Staal would likely be the prized UFA center up for grabs.

If this is how things play out, it would also clarify the situation for the ‘Canes. Once it’s confirmed Staal isn’t coming back — assuming he isn’t coming back, of course — GM Ron Francis can start to look towards the trade deadline, and focus on recouping assets for his captain.

Ex-Jets forward Slater signs in Swiss league

Winnipeg Jets v St Louis Blues

After failing to catch on with a team in free agency, Jim Slater is headed overseas.

On Tuesday, news broke that Slater signed with Geneve-Servette of Switzerland’s National League A, per multiple sources. The move comes after the 30-year-old spent the entire summer trying to secure a gig, on the heels of a 10-year career spent entirely with the Jets/Thrashers organization.

A first-round pick (30th overall) in 2002, Slater broke in with Atlanta and moved with the team to Winnipeg in 2011. A checking forward with some grit, he was a constant presence in the Jets lineup last year — Slater appeared in all 82 regular-season and four playoff games, one of just three Winnipeg skaters to accomplish the feat.

In Geneva, Slater will be skating alongside fellow ex-NHLers Matthew Lombardi, Tom Pyatt, Matt D’Agostini and Cody Almond.

Is Taylor Hall set to become Edmonton’s new captain?

Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers
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Some pretty curious stuff coming out of Edmonton today.

First, from the Journal: A back-and-forth radio exchange between Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer and ex-Oiler Georges Laraque, in which the two dance around the rumor that Taylor Hall will replace Andrew Ference as team captain.

Then, from Sportsnet: A piece suggesting Ference will have troubles cracking Edmonton’s defense this season, with a telling closing question — “How many nights can a captain spend in the press box before he can’t be the captain anymore?”

Per TSN, Ference has already spoken to head coach Todd McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli about ceding the captaincy, should the organization decide to go that way.

It could be the best move for all parties involved.

The last thing Edmonton wants — or Ference, for that matter — is to have a situation like Buffalo had with captain Craig Rivet in 2010; once head coach Lindy Ruff started healthy scratching Rivet, the whole thing became a distraction.

As for the timing? One has to think that, if the Oilers are going to make a leadership change, they’ll pull the trigger soon. If McLellan learned anything from his final year in San Jose, it’s that an unresolved captaincy issue is an unnecessary headache. Probably doesn’t want to go into his first season in Edmonton under similar circumstances.

Hall seems the likely choice as new captain, given his six years (time flies!) spent in the city and a contract that runs through 2020. Others have floated the possibility of Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but to most, Hall remains the guy.

The more complex decision is how to handle Ference.

Despite diminishing skills on the ice, he remains an important figure off it; he’s regarded as a quality leader and extremely active in the community, and also has a fairly hefty contract remaining (two years at $3.25 million per, with a no-movement clause).

The Oilers wrap their preseason on Saturday, and open the regular season on Oct. 8.

Will the decision be made by then?

Carolina could be really, really young on defense this year

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Justin Faulk, the former U.S. Olympian and All-Star, is a cornerstone of the Hurricanes’ blueline.

And at 23 years old, he’s also one of the more experienced defensemen on the team.

Seriously!

On Monday, the ‘Canes made another round of training camp cuts, which left them with Faulk and nine other d-men: John-Michael Liles, Ron Hainsey (both 34), James Wisniewski (31), Michal Jordan (25), Ryan Murphy (22), Jacob Slavin (21), Brett Pesce (20), Haydn Fleury (19) and Noah Hanifin (18).

The big (and exciting) questions for Carolina are Fleury and Hanifin, the club’s most recent first-round picks. Fleury (seventh overall, ’14) has the physical tools to play at the NHL level — he’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — and could end up sticking partly because of his predicament; he’s only 19 and therefore AHL ineligible, meaning he’d need to be returned to WHL Red Deer, where he’s already played three full seasons.

Then there’s Hanifin, the fifth overall pick at this year’s draft.

Like Fleury, he’s seen by some as NHL-ready and the ‘Canes have made it clear that, should the former Boston College standout prove he’s ready to play, he’ll play.

“We certainly think with his skating ability and his size, he has the potential to step in and play, but we’re certainly not going to rush him in that regard,” GM Ron Francis told the team’s website this summer. “I think if you look at history, a lot of young defensemen take a little longer to develop.

“There have been more and more (defensemen) recently that have been able to step in and not only contribute, but have tremendous success.”

As for the other youngsters — Slavin and Pesce — their fates could be decided by the health of others, specifically James Wisniewski. The well-traveled journeyman, acquired from Anaheim at the draft, is dealing with a groin injury and has a length history of health concerns.

It’ll also be interesting to see how many d-men Bill Peters keeps to start the year. The ‘Canes head coach could begin with eight, given the Wisniewski situation, which would further pave the way for a potential youth movement on the blueline.

The Isles are still choked at Tom Wilson, apparently

NHL Game 7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
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In last year’s opening-round playoff loss, the Islanders were none too happy with Caps forward Tom Wilson — Wilson was a physical presence all series long and ended Lubomir Visnovsky’s season with a big hit, prompting Kyle Okposo to call Wilson an “idiot.”

On Monday night, the Isles tried for their pound of flesh in an exhibition tilt against Washington.

To no avail.

“[Wilson] kept turning me down [to fight],” veteran tough guy Eric Boulton told Newsday. “He wasn’t interested. He was scared to death.”

Both Boulton and defenseman Scott Mayfield tried to goad Wilson into a scrap, but the third-year forward turned them down. Why? Well, aside from the risk of injuring himself in a preseason fight, Wilson was under the assumption last year’s playoff series was water under the bridge.

“I thought maybe the change of scenery, everybody would have forgot about last year, but obviously, there was a little bit of hard feelings carried over,” Wilson told the Washington Post, alluding to the fact Visnovsky doesn’t play for the Isles anymore. “I made a little bit of a big hit on the first shift and kind of woke up the bear. [Boulton’s] done that his whole career.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Boulton. He’s 39 years old and he’s still playing tough, still in the league, so I understand what his job is. I understand what he’s trying to do. I just tried to kind of play hockey.”

While Wilson tried to downplay the situation, it’s clear the Isles are still upset — much like they were in the days following the Visnovsky hit. Captain John Tavares and defenseman Thomas Hickey both expressed their anger and, later in the series, Anders Lee dropped the mitts with Wilson.

Some figured that was sufficient revenge.

The Isles are not some of those people.

These two teams next meet on Jan. 7, if you want to start circling dates on your calendar.