After going unprotected, Staal holds off on commenting

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Wild GM Chuck Fletcher made some pretty significant decisions over the weekend, exposing a trio of quality players for the upcoming expansion draft: defensemen Marco Scandella and Mathew Dumba, and forward Eric Staal.

All three stood out, but Staal was especially interesting. The 32-year-old is Minnesota’s top center and had a great first campaign with the Wild, leading the team in goals (28) while finishing second in points (65).

So, how does the veteran feel about being exposed? From the Star-Tribune:

The Wild felt it necessary to protect the younger, more valuable asset [forward Jason Zucker]. The Wild also may know or is simply taking a calculated risk that the Golden Knights — or another team via trade with the Golden Knights’ help — would pluck a defenseman instead of Staal with blue-liners Dumba, Scandella or even Gustav Olofsson ripe for the taking.

It’s believed Fletcher explained that to Staal. In an e-mail, Staal said he’d prefer to reserve comment until once the process is complete.

As the Tribune points out, Staal may very well remain with Minnesota after the dust settles on Wednesday. Scandella and Dumba probably have more value given they’re blueliners and fairly young — Scandella turned 27 in February, Dumba turns 23 in July — and it’s unclear how much interest Vegas GM George McPhee has in players on the wrong side of 30.

That said, Staal brings plenty to the table.

From a leadership perspective, he’s got a Stanley Cup and six years of captaincy experience on his resume. He’s still got good offensive upside, as evident from last season, and is on a pretty good contract. Staal has two years remaining on a three-year, $10.5 million deal with a $3.5M average annual cap hit.

From a big-picture perspective, it’ll be curious to see how Staal and others of his ilk feel about being exposed. Chances are there won’t be any bad feelings — as the cliche goes, “at the end of the day this is a business,” — but it still has to sting a little bit. Staal was a major catalyst for a team that won 49 games and racked up 106 points last year, and now he’s up for grabs.

Of course, Fletcher could nullify that by negotiating a deal in which McPhee doesn’t select Staal. Or Fletcher could just take the aforementioned risk that Vegas will pass.

Either way, we’ll have to wait until after Wednesday to hear what Staal thinks.