Eric Staal, the Carolina Hurricanes captain and a fixture on the ice in Raleigh since his NHL debut in 2003, suddenly is gone.
Seeking to rebuild, the Canes reluctantly traded their captain to the New York Rangers on Sunday. Canes general manager Ron Francis, a hall of famer, a former Canes captain and a friend of Staal’s, called the trade “kind of the crappy part of our business.”
But the parting was as inevitable as it was painful. The Canes have gained room to bring in younger talent and Staal has joined a team with which he could win his second Stanley Cup. He had to leave his brother and teammate Jordan behind in Raleigh, but he’ll get to play with another younger brother, Marc, in New York.
“It’s bittersweet when you’re leaving a lot of people you care about, when you’re leaving a lot of things that mean a lot to me,” Eric Staal said Monday. “But the opportunity to be on a great team, to play with Marc is too good to pass up.”
Staal, 31, leaves as the franchise leader in nearly every category that matters. He was a dynamic and durable player and a credit to his team and his community.
Even with Eric Staal gone, there will still be plenty of Canes fans wearing his No. 12 at PNC Arena. They’ll always value his starring role in the Canes’ wild run to win the 2006 Stanley Cup. And they admired his class and perseverance as the team struggled in recent years. He is, as Francis said, “a real pro.”