With two key members of the franchise heading into the final year of their respective contracts, ‘Canes GM Ron Francis is under pressure to make some big decisions in Carolina.
Both Eric Staal and Cam Ward are set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2015-16 season. Both players were first-round picks of the ‘Canes and have spent their entire careers in the Carolina organization.
“We’ve had some conversations with Rich (Curran). When Eric and Cam get back into town, I’m sure we’ll have conversations with them,” Francis said. “I feel pretty comfortable with my relationship with Rich, and with both players that when the time is right and the numbers are right that we can get something done.
“Am I in a hurry to get this done this week or before camp or into the season? I really don’t have a timeframe on it. It’ll get done when it gets done.”
Ward, who went 22-24-5 in 51 appearances last season while posting a 2.40 G.A.A. and a .910 save percentage, is no stranger to being the subject of trade rumors. The 31-year-old expected to be dealt last summer.
“There was a lot of chatter about it last year and I learned a lot from that too,” Ward told PHT in January. “(Last) summer I was really able to take a break mentally and realize that I can only control what I can control – that’s just having fun and enjoying the game of hockey.”
Staal scored 23 goals and 54 points in 77 games last season registering his lowest totals since his rookie season.
“We’ll look at the whole situation and try and figure out what’s best,” Francis said. “As we said from Day 1, it has to make sense for our organization. We always talk about the term of the contract and the money in the contract – making sure we’re not blocking things going forward either.”
In addition to Staal and Ward, Francis will have to make decisions on Nathan Gerbe and Riley Nash up front. The only defenseman set to become an unrestricted free agent is John-Michael Liles while Eddie Lack is also headed into the final year of his contract.