Carolina Hurricanes

Eric Staal accepts uncertainty while Canes contract is unsettled

The Canes’ Eric Staal (12) jostles for position in front of the net with the Ottawa Senators' Mark Borowiecki (74) during an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Nov. 7, 2015.
The Canes’ Eric Staal (12) jostles for position in front of the net with the Ottawa Senators' Mark Borowiecki (74) during an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Nov. 7, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal realizes until a contract extension is signed, or not signed, the questions will continue this season.

When will he sign? For how long and how much? Or could he be traded, leaving an organization that drafted him in 2003?

Staal said he is fine with the scrutiny. The questions popped up again Wednesday, as the Canes prepared to face the Edmonton Oilers at PNC Arena.

“We’re going to have to make some decisions on what they want to do and then we’ll go from there,” Staal said.

Staal, 31, is in the final year of a seven-year, $57.25 million contract signed in September 2008. He is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July, and the Canes likely would listen to trade proposals for the former All-Star forward if the two sides can’t come to terms before the NHL trade deadline Feb. 29.

Staal has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he would have final approval on any deal. But he continues to say he has no desire to leave a franchise he helped win a Stanley Cup in 2006 and has served as captain since January 2010.

We’ll try to hammer something out. Hopefully they want me to stay here, and if they want to go in a different direction and do different things, then, hey, that’s life.

Canes captain Eric Staal

Staal said he had a “good talk” with general manager Ron Francis before the season. He said the two agreed to let the season begin to unfold before making a contract decision – goalie Cam Ward also is in the final year of his contract.

“I like the direction Ron has taken this team, the things he’s been able to do,” Staal said. “We’ll try to hammer something out. Hopefully they want me to stay here, and if they want to go in a different direction and do different things, then, hey, that’s life. I’ll move on and go from there.

“But I said from Day One I’ve been in this organization my whole (career) and like to continue the way it’s going. I like the steps we’re taking. But those are decisions that will be made when we get there.”

Rick Curran, who represents Staal and Ward for the Orr Hockey Group, said Wednesday that contract negotiations for the two could begin in the first few weeks of December.

“Ron and I have had good conversations and he asked why not wait until after American Thanksgiving, to get a sense of how good a team they had,” Curran said. “I said that was fine. Neither of us has given each other a deadline.”

Francis has said he’s hopeful of re-signing Staal and Ward, both franchise cornerstones and Stanley Cup heroes in ’06. Francis also said it has to be the right term and right price for each player.

Staal has a $9.5 million salary this season, the highest on the team. He said the financial parameters of a new deal have yet to be discussed.

“There hasn’t been any discussions at all,” he said. “But if that’s where we’re going to go, I don’t think it will be the extremely hard part.

“I haven’t had any decisions to make. Once we get to that point we’ll start talking about it.”

The Canes were 7-10-4 before Wednesday’s game, five points out of playoff position. It’s a team with three rookie defensemen, a team struggling to score goals.

“But we’ve played some good hockey,” Staal said. “We’ve been in every game. We’ve been competitive, beaten some good teams. We’ve had some leads we’ve been unable to hold but overall we feel confident with the group we have.

“Obviously we need to get the results. We need the points. But it’s a process.”

As for a new contract, it remains status quo between Staal and Francis.

“We said I would play and he would watch and we would decide as the year went,” Staal said.

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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