Luke DeCock

Four Hurricanes stars, one agent, many questions

The Carolina Hurricanes’ Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner (shown here with Justin Faulk, left) all have the same agent and are all high-priced, popular and potentially tradeable players.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner (shown here with Justin Faulk, left) all have the same agent and are all high-priced, popular and potentially tradeable players. cseward@newsobserver.com

The man who wields the most power and influence over the future of the Carolina Hurricanes does not receive a paycheck from the team, although a modest chunk of its revenues ends up in his pocket, eventually.

He does not live here, he does not work here and he does not have any direct connection to the team. But he may have as much to say about where the Hurricanes are headed than the owner or general manager.

Rick Curran is the agent who represents Eric Staal. Curran also represents Jordan Staal. Curran also represents Cam Ward. And Curran also represents Jeff Skinner.

Basically, every high-priced, popular, star player the Hurricanes might even consider trading as part of a rebuilding process has the same agent, and this summer brings a new kind of time pressure.

Both Eric Staal and Ward need to be either re-signed or traded, because their contracts are up after next season. Jordan Staal is signed to a long-term contract but came here to play with his brother and may not want to stay without him. Skinner has three years left on his contract but is one of the Hurricanes’ most marketable assets.

Francis and Curran met Wednesday to discuss the group’s conjoined future, and no matter what happens it’s impossible to separate their fates. No part of this discussion can be conducted in isolation.

“Over the years, I’ve had a number of occasions where I was faced with similar situations, with five or six clients on a particular team and it’s just coincidental with the dates of their contracts being due,” Curran said. “When I’m dealing on behalf of a client, I’m very cautious and very concerned to focus on the individual client. But having said that, you have to step back and look at the big picture and recognize any decision one client might make has a net effect on what someone else might want to do.”

In each case, Francis is more willing to consider a blockbuster trade than he was a year ago when he was just taking over as general manager and wanted to see if a few tweaks could get the Hurricanes back into the playoffs. That failed, and drastic changes are more likely.

“From my standpoint, I would say I have more interest in doing that at this point,” Francis said. “How it plays out, it’s tough to tell.”

Since Ward and both Staals have no-move clauses in their contracts, they would have a voice in any potential trade. That leaves Curran alone across the table from Francis in what has become a delicate dance as the inseparable futures of Curran’s clients and Francis’ team hang in the balance.

“It’s easier in the sense that you can make one phone call and talk about all four of them instead of lining up all the agents,” Francis said. “But it’s no different than dealing with any other agent. We had an open and honest discussion and dialogue and at the end of day he understands he has four different clients and he has to treat each of them differently.”

This isn’t necessarily new for the Hurricanes – Curran and former general manager Jim Rutherford had a close working relationship forged over decades and the Hurricanes’ roster has often included multiple Curran clients – nor is it unusual in the hockey world. Curran works for Bobby Orr, who has one of the largest and most prominent agencies in the game.

What is unusual is four players so critical to the future of the franchise, with so much control of their own destiny, having fates so intertwined.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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