Would Carolina be better off trading Eric Staal?

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Expectations were already pretty low for the 2014-15 Carolina Hurricanes, but after a slew of injuries, the team is in such a state that grim comments like these ring true:

With all the doom, gloom and injuries, there’s the impulse to wonder if the organization might be best served by cleaning house or at least making some big changes. That’s an especially interesting consideration since new GM Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters inherited this ‘Canes core from an old regime.

In other words, all the ingredients are coming together to produce the latest round of Eric Staal trade rumors.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Tuesday that, at some point before the season began, the 29-year-old expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. The asking price would be steep: possibly some combination of a first-round pick, occasional healthy scratch victim Jake Gardiner and one of Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons shed some additional light on the rumors, noting the following:

  • A deal involving Gardiner and Kadri may be more realistic, as a first-rounder (particularly in the 2015 NHL Draft) would be too steep. (Some believe even that package would be too steep.)
  • Nothing has been discussed since the regular season kicked off.

HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman was a little more coy about the situation in his weekly 30 Thoughts for Sportsnet:

There’s no guarantee the Hurricanes move Staal, and he controls the situation. But teams are going to take a close look at him — just in case. You forget he’s still a week shy of 30.

Keeping in mind that this is pure speculation – possibly stemming from talks that cooled since the first meaningful hockey began, according to Simmons – would such a move be worth it for the Hurricanes or a team looking to grab the big center?

Carolina’s concerns

During the offseason, PHT readers were asked about various trade routes for Carolina. The most common answers were “Blow it up” and “Stay put,” but after that, a greater number of readers opted for trading Eric Staal than those who recommended moving the likes of Alexander Semin, his brother Jordan or Jeff Skinner.

(Names like Cam Ward were excluded because, frankly, that would have been too easy.)

From a box office standpoint, trading Staal could be risky for Carolina. He’s the captain, a four-time All-Star and a player who truly blossomed in the Hurricanes’ unexpected run to winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.

Let’s also not forget that Carolina isn’t necessarily a marquee destination for free agents; aside from Semin, the Hurricanes’ best players tend to come from the draft (Eric Staal, Skinner, Ward) or trades (Jordan Staal). The franchise may very well regret parting with its No. 1 center.

Staal’s value

That said, he’s two weeks from turning 30 and carries a hefty salary cap price tag of $8.25 million through the 2015-16 season.

Stats blogger turned NHL team employee Eric Tulsky broke down how quickly things tend to go so south as a forward hits the big 3-0:

In addition, we now have an estimate of how even strength scoring ability changes through a player’s 30’s. On average, players retain about 90% of their scoring through age 29, but the drop from there is pretty sharp — they hit 80% at age 31, 70% at age 32-33, and 60% at age 35.

If anything, Eric Staal might be showing earlier signs of decline. His 100-point season from 2005-06 almost seemed like a mirage, as he eventually settled mostly in the mid-70’s during what might be considered his prime years. The 2012-13 season provided some renewed hope for true dominance – his 53 points in 48 games would translate to 90 over a full season – but he dropped down to 61 points last season.

Plenty of teams would gladly add a guy with 60-point or 70-point potential, but that might not be satisfying at Staal’s price tag, especially at the cost of some nice assets. Still, Simmons lays out a solid argument for why Staal might be especially enticing:

But Staal, the Hurricanes captain, is the kind of gem of a player, if available, who would interest just about anybody. He is 6-foot-4. He has played some of his best hockey at the Air Canada Centre. He has had 100- and 90-point seasons in his career. He is coming off one of the few poor seasons of his career. But the year before, the shortened 48-game lockout year, he scored at 90-point pace.

The last Leafs centre to have a 90-point season was Mats Sundin. That was 17 years ago.

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It’s important to note that talks have reportedly simmered down, yet with Carolina struggling and teams hungry to improve, it’s plausible that they could rev back up again.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.