All of the Carolina Hurricanes' preseason planning went into the wastebasket when Jordan Staal broke his leg. They'll miss him for at least three months. The impact of the injury within the Staal family may last for years.
With brother Marc entering the final year of his contract with the New York Rangers, and negotiations under way but so far producing nothing concrete, next summer may be the last, best chance the Staal brothers will ever have to play on the same NHL team.
To convince Marc to turn down millions from the Rangers and leave a Stanley Cup contender to join Eric, Jordan and minor-leaguer Jared in Carolina, the Hurricanes were going to have to make one heck of an on-ice sales pitch this season. That's obviously going to be a little tougher case to make without Jordan.
Nevertheless, Eric and eventually Jordan will do their best, knowing this is almost certainly their final shot at a family reunion.
"He's been with the Rangers his whole career and they're a consistent playoff team, went to the finals last year," Eric Staal said. "I think it would be easier if he had won a Stanley Cup. For him to leave there it would probably feel, like it would for me or for Jordan, like you have some unfinished business. He's come close. They're a consistent contender every year and I know he likes that. For that to change around here, we have to make the playoffs. That'd be good for us."
The Hurricanes nearly drafted Marc in 2005, opting for Jack Johnson instead with the third overall pick in part because of his offensive potential compared to Staal, who ended up going 12th to the Rangers. Marc Staal embarked on an impressive career as a solid, reliable defenseman while Johnson's contract negotiations with the Hurricanes turned ugly and he was shipped to Los Angeles Kings a year later before ending up with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Hurricanes started with Eric, the second overall pick in 2003, before adding Jared as a free agent in 2010. A blockbuster trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins brought Jordan to the Hurricanes in 2012. Both Eric and Jordan have Stanley Cup rings, but the Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs since they were reunited here.
The New York Post reported Marc Staal and the Rangers are about $3 million apart at the moment over the course of a potential six-year deal, a gap which is likely to extend that process through the season to the trade deadline and perhaps beyond. Despite vision and concussion issues in his past, he's that important to their team.
Family is really the only reason Marc Staal would consider playing in Carolina, and the current stalemate would have given his two brothers with the Hurricanes a chance to state their case, if one of them hadn't just broken his leg.
The brothers didn't see much of each other over the summer, with Marc's season running into June with the Rangers and a full slate of weddings and the like. (Eric, Jordan and Jared attended the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June while Marc was otherwise occupied.) They don't need to talk about it to be aware of the situation - and the stakes.
"I know he's in negotiations with the Rangers," Eric said. "He likes it there. He wants to be there. He's made that clear, made that clear to them as well. Obviously anything can happen, but we haven't really been in his ear as far as 'Wait another year' or anything like that.
"I think he knows that. The ball's in his court as far as that goes. Obviously as a brother you're not going to despise him either way, whatever happens."