NHL Trade Rumors: Should Toronto Maple Leafs Trade for Eric Staal?


Oct 10, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward

Eric Staal

(12) before the game against the New York Islanders at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs may not have reached the 10-game mark on the new season, but NHL trade rumors seem to fly in Canada’s largest city year round.

This time, it’s Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal.

The report came from TSN’s Darren Dreger during a recent edition of Insider Trading—the network’s segment that features the latest rumblings from around the league.

Now, before Leafs fans start pre-ordering blue and white Staal jerseys, bear in mind that the big-bodied center does have a no-movement clause.

Yet if Staal were to move, it does seem like the Leafs would be a good fit, and as Dreger mentions, they do have interest in acquiring his services.

So, would making a move for the soon-to-be 30-year-old be the right one for this Maple Leafs squad?

Let’s break it down.


When it comes to Carolina’s most recognizable player’s production, there are two ways to look at it.

First, it’s in decline and that it’s no longer enough to justify his cap hit of $8.25 million through the end of the 2015-16 campaign—per capgeek.com.

The other angle one can take, is that Staal is still a major upgrade to anything Toronto currently possesses down the middle.

Both sides have a point.

Staal’s production did take a dip last year, as he posted his worst points-per-game total since the 2003-04 season, per hockeydb.com.

Throw in the fact that he’s about to hit the wrong side of 30 years old and the fact that he was injured for the first few games of the season, and you’ve got a legitimate reason for concern.

On the other hand, his worst points-per-game tally in about a decade was still good for a 0.77 mark. Compare that with Tyler Bozak‘s number of 0.84 from 2013-14—a career high—and it doesn’t look too bad.

Factor in their linemates and Staal’s production doesn’t look so pedestrian. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk combined for 141 points in 2013-14. Alex Semin had just 42, while Jiri Tlusty and Jeff Skinner had just 30 and 54 respectively.

That tells me Staal had a much tougher time racking up the points than Bozak did.

Toss in the advanced metrics, and it’s fairly clear that Staal would be a big upgrade for the Buds.

In on-ice Corsi (measured per 60 minutes), Staal posted a figure of 5.07. Bozak? Minus-15.07.

Staal’s relative Corsi of 6.8 also easily eclipsed Bozak’s 1.0.

The fact that Staal is also a bigger presence—6’4″and 205 pounds to 6’1″and 195 pounds—only makes a potential trade even more enticing.

Other than chemistry, it’s hard to come up with a reason not to pull the trigger on this trade from a production standpoint.


Oct 18, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman

Jake Gardiner

(51) skates with the puck in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit won 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Alas, on-ice production isn’t the only factor that goes into making these kinds of decisions.

The front office also has to weigh how much a trade would cost the club with how much benefit it would bring back in return.

Usually, trades for players like Staal result sending young players and draft picks the other way, meaning you may suffer some long-term pain for short-term gain.

So, what would the cost be to bring the Hurricanes’ forward to the most intense hockey market around?

First, there’s Carolina’s demands to consider.

A team heading for a re-build is sure to ask for some players, prospects and/or draft picks that will help them build for the future.

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Secondly, there are also salary cap considerations to take into account.

Staal’s $8.25 million cap hit would be hard for Toronto to fit into their roster, with the team having just under $1 million left, per capgeek.com.

That means that Toronto would need to send the ‘Canes enough in young talent to satiate their re-building desires and send enough salary back to accomadate Staal’s hefty contract into their salary cap.

That means a player like Jake Gardiner—who fulfills both of those requirements—is likely to be included in any trade for Staal.

Secondly, in the video linked above, TSN’s Bob McKenzie mentions that a center would also have to head back to Carolina in any deal. That means either Kadri or Bozak—though it’s not likely that Toronto will part with both Gardiner and Kadri, who are both important to both short and long-term success.

That means that the deal would center around Gardiner and Bozak for cap purposes. Having one more young gun like Stuart Percy included in the deal would probably be enough to meet the Hurricanes demands as well.

The question now becomes, if you’re Toronto, are you willing to part with two good young defensemen and your “top-line” center for Staal?

Do you believe you can really make a run before his contract expires? Are you okay with breaking up a young core that includes the likes of Kadri, Gardiner, Percy, Kessel, van Riemsdyk, as well as Morgan Rielly, Jonathan Bernier and recent draftee William Nylander?

If I were in the front office, I’d lean towards making that trade.

Toronto hasn’t had a true No. 1 center since Mats Sundin, and they do have the potential to make the postseason in 2015 and 2016.

Furthermore, most of the core of young players that the team has amassed would still be intact.

If the Hurricanes asked for an additional first-round pick or Rielly in place of Percy, I’d walk away, however. It should be interesting to see how this Leafs rumor pans out.

All statistics courtesy of behindthenet.ca unless otherwise noted.