Eric Staal helped the Carolina Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup and has served as team captain since 2010, saying he embraces that role.
But the Canes, who ended their season Saturday against the Detrot Red Wings, will miss the playoffs for a sixth straight year. Next season, Staal will be in the final year of his contract.
Staal said Saturday that he has had no preliminary talks with general manager Ron Francis about a contract extension, saying, "I'm not worried about it, to be honest." The forward, who has played almost 900 regular-season and playoff games for Carolina, said he would like to remain with the team that drafted him in 2003, a team for whom he has become the face of the franchise.
"I'm not sure what their plans are or what lies ahead," Staal said. "I love being here. I love this team, the people, the fans.
"Sure, I would love to be part of the group that gets back to the playoffs and another chance at the Stanley Cup. Whether they feel I'm a part of that will be determined in the future. But as of right now I have another year on my contract and I'll be here to perform to the best of my abilities."
Staal, the Canes' leading scorer this season, is the team's highest-paid player at $9.25 million and is due to receive $9.5 million next season. It's possible, perhaps likely, the Hurricanes could ask him to accept less money if offered a multi-year extension.
Should Francis decide the team needs to move in a different direction and remake his lineup, it also possible Staal could be asked to accept a trade. He has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he would have to approve any deal.
Staal, 30, said he would not stand in the way of trade, adding, “Depending on where I was being shipped off to. I'm not going to answer questions where I don't know what (management) is thinking.
"I know I can play. I can play in this league for a lot more years. If they don't want me here I'll play somewhere else, but like I said, I like here. I like this organization. I care about a lot of people here and these fans. I would like to be a part of getting better and taking another step, but if they don’t feel I’m a part of that then you obviously take a look at other roads.”
The Canes, 30-40-11 entering the final game of the season, were without center Jordan Staal for a big chunk of the season as Jordan Staal recovered from a broken leg. Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Nathan Gerbe and others also were slowed by early season injuries.
Jordan Staal returned in late-December and Carolina was 20-17-7 after Jan. 1 heading into Saturday’s game against the Wings.
“I think we can compete, as we’ve shown with a healthier lineup from January on, with anybody,” Eric Staal said.
Canes coach Bill Peters said he has enjoyed coaching and working with Staal in his first year as a head coach.
“He’s been excellent,” Peters said. “Tough start for our team (this year), tough start for him. How many games did he play with that lower-body injury? I give him credit for playing through that.”
As for Staal’s leadership as captain, Peters said, “Excellent. Our room has been good all year. Even we were struggling to win ... I thought those veterans did a good job of keeping the room together.”