Eric Staal must love Minnesota, because this is a sweet deal for the Wild

Getty Images
1 Comment

Clearly, Eric Staal loves some combination of stability, living in Minnesota, and playing for the Wild.

Earlier this month, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Staal essentially used his no-trade clause to block moves to contenders. If that seemed against his team … well, Staal rewarded the Wild for sticking with him.

Shortly after the trade deadline expired, word surfaced from The Athletic’s Michael Russo and TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Staal signed a two-year extension that will carry a $3.25M cap hit beginning in 2019-20.

That $3.25M cap hit actually goes down from his soon-to-expire current contract with the Wild, which carried a $3.5M cap hit from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

You could make a reasonable argument that Staal was worth that $10.5M in 2017-18 alone, as he scored a stunning 42 goals and 76 points in 82 games. He had already put up great numbers in his first Wild season (28 goals, 65 points in 2016-17), and Staal’s been useful this season, generating 18 goals and 41 points in 62 games. Staal’s long been a useful possession player, and that continued as the Wild have hogged the puck much of 2018-19, even if the results haven’t always been inspiring.

Staal’s 34, and he’ll turn 35 on Oct. 29. so there’s a strong chance that he won’t be able to maintain the same rather-lofty heights as before.

From a value perspective, Staal really doesn’t have to. Again, he’s been an enormous bargain on his current deal, and could drop quite a bit and still be worth $3.25M. This is very much an “I like this place, and I like my role”-type extension.

That said, the Wild had arguably been asking too much of an aging player in Staal, even though he’s been aging remarkably gracefully. Their work during the trade deadline only argues that they’ll need a lot from the former face of the Hurricanes franchise, both through this playoff drive, and beyond.

Facelift

While Minnesota ended up with some picks in their many trades, GM Paul Fenton focused mainly on moving roster players for other roster players.

Victor Rask is 25 and Nino Niederreiter is 26, so while there was a marginal amount of money saved, it was a lateral deal (that looked shaky on day one, and only worse since then for Minnesota). Kevin Fiala and Ryan Donato are both 22, replacing 26-year-olds Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle.

The Wild are getting younger and cheaper, generally speaking, but they weren’t emphasizing picks.

[Winners and losers of the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline]

For some rebuilding teams, like Ottawa, it’s about blowing things up to get a massive number of draft choices and prospects. The Wild, instead, are hoping they can strike gold on players who are almost-there.

To me, that puts added pressure on Eric Staal and other players to bring the Donato/Fiala types along, and patch up any holes that come from the Wild saying goodbye to prominent players like Granlund and Coyle.

Maybe those moves had to happen – this is a team that was respectable, but treading water – yet there might be some strain that comes with it. It’s possible that the aging curve hits Staal hard (he’s already played 1,155 regular-season games, plus 58 in the playoffs), but it’s also easy to imagine him being more valuable than that $3.25M per year.

The Wild may want him to, well, wildly exceed that cap hit once again, though, and that’s where things get a little tricky.

Either way, Staal likely would have gotten more money or a better shot at a Stanley Cup if he went elsewhere, but instead gave the Wild a sweet deal on Monday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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.