By: Nick Lanciani
The Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers completed a trade early on Sunday afternoon in which forward Eric Staal was sent to the Rangers. The Hurricanes acquired forward Aleksi Saarela, a second round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and a second round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in return.
Staal is a 31-year-old center who has spent his entire career (until now) with the Hurricanes for the last 12 seasons. In 909 career NHL games with Carolina he had 775 points (322 goals, 453 assists) and 678 penalty minutes.
He leaves the Hurricanes as the team’s all-time leader since 1997 in games played (909), goals (322), assists (453), points (775), hat tricks (13), penalty minutes (674), power play goals (105), shorthanded goals (16) and game winning goals (47). Staal ranks second to Ron Francis in franchise history in goals, assists, points and power play goals. He ranks first in franchise history, dating back to 1979, in shorthanded goals and hat tricks.
The center led the Hurricanes with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) during their 25 game run to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship and is the franchise’s all-time leader in playoff scoring with 43 points.
At 6’4″, 205-pounds, Staal is one of only two NHL players to register at least 30 assists and 50 points in ten consecutive seasons from 2005-2006 to 2014-2015 (the other being Martin St. Louis) and he is one of seven players to have tallied 50 or more points in at least ten different seasons since entering the league in the 2003-2004 season. Along with Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau, Staal is the only other NHL player to have skated in at least 900 games with at least 300 goals, 400 assists and 700 points since the start of the 2003-2004 regular season.
He currently ranks second in the NHL in shots on goal with 3,033 shots since 2003-2004. Steal played an important role in leading Carolina to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final and led the Hurricanes with 10-5-15 totals in 18 Stanley Cup Playoffs games in 2009.
The Thunder Bay, Ontario native has played in 63 games this season with 10-23-33 totals and 32 penalty minutes. He skated in his 900th career NHL game on February 7th in Montreal and became the third player to play in at least 900 games with the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise (the other two were Ron Francis and Glen Wesley, by the way).
Steal served as Carolina’s captain for parts of the last seven seasons after being named the 13th captain in franchise history on January 20, 2010. He was captain of Team Staal at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh and was the 2008 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in Atlanta. He’s a four time All-Star (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011) and was selected by the Hurricanes in the first round (2nd overall) at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
On an international scale, Staal has represented team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, IIHF World Junior Championship and Winter Olympics. He is a member of the “Triple Gold Club”, as a winner of the gold medal at the 2007 IIHF World Championship, Olympic gold medalist in 2010 and a Stanley Cup champion in 2006. Staal has also won a silver medal with Canada at the 2008 IIHF World Championship and registered three assists in eight games while serving as Canada’s captain at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.
The Hurricanes retained half (50%) of Staal’s remaining salary, as he is a pending UFA.
Saarela is a 19-year-old forward who currently plays in the Finnish elite league, SM-liiga, leading Assat Pori in goals (18) and ranking second in points (31) through 46 games played.
The native of Helsinki, Finland won a gold medal with his Finnish teammates at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship and amassed 4-3-7 totals in seven games in the tournament.
He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round (89th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In four seasons with Lukko Rauma and Assat Pori in Finland’s top league, Saarela has 47 points (25 goals, 22 assists) in 156 career games.
Eric Staal will likely join his brother, Marc, and his new teammates on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden. The Hurricanes will move on without Staal during Sunday afternoon’s matinee against the St. Louis Blues in Raleigh.