Eric Staal must love Minnesota, because this is a sweet deal for the Wild
Clearly, Eric Staal loves some combination of stability, living in Minnesota, and playing for the Wild.
Earlier this month, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Staal essentially used his no-trade clause to block moves to contenders. If that seemed against his team ... well, Staal rewarded the Wild for sticking with him.
Shortly after the trade deadline expired, word surfaced from The Athletic’s Michael Russo and TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Staal signed a two-year extension that will carry a $3.25M cap hit beginning in 2019-20.
That $3.25M cap hit actually goes down from his soon-to-expire current contract with the Wild, which carried a $3.5M cap hit from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
You could make a reasonable argument that Staal was worth that $10.5M in 2017-18 alone, as he scored a stunning 42 goals and 76 points in 82 games. He had already put up great numbers in his first Wild season (28 goals, 65 points in 2016-17), and Staal’s been useful this season, generating 18 goals and 41 points in 62 games. Staal’s long been a useful possession player, and that continued as the Wild have hogged the puck much of 2018-19, even if the results haven’t always been inspiring.
Staal’s 34, and he’ll turn 35 on Oct. 29. so there’s a strong chance that he won’t be able to maintain the same rather-lofty heights as before.
From a value perspective, Staal really doesn’t have to. Again, he’s been an enormous bargain on his current deal, and could drop quite a bit and still be worth $3.25M. This is very much an “I like this place, and I like my role"-type extension.
That said, the Wild had arguably been asking too much of an aging player in Staal, even though he’s been aging remarkably gracefully. Their work during the trade deadline only argues that they’ll need a lot from the former face of the Hurricanes franchise, both through this playoff drive, and beyond.
While Minnesota ended up with some picks in their many trades, GM Paul Fenton focused mainly on moving roster players for other roster players.
Victor Rask is 25 and Nino Niederreiter is 26, so while there was a marginal amount of money saved, it was a lateral deal (that looked shaky on day one, and only worse since then for Minnesota). Kevin Fiala and Ryan Donato are both 22, replacing 26-year-olds Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle.
The Wild are getting younger and cheaper, generally speaking, but they weren’t emphasizing picks.
[Winners and losers of the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline]
For some rebuilding teams, like Ottawa, it’s about blowing things up to get a massive number of draft choices and prospects. The Wild, instead, are hoping they can strike gold on players who are almost-there.
To me, that puts added pressure on Eric Staal and other players to bring the Donato/Fiala types along, and patch up any holes that come from the Wild saying goodbye to prominent players like Granlund and Coyle.
Maybe those moves had to happen - this is a team that was respectable, but treading water - yet there might be some strain that comes with it. It’s possible that the aging curve hits Staal hard (he’s already played 1,155 regular-season games, plus 58 in the playoffs), but it’s also easy to imagine him being more valuable than that $3.25M per year.
The Wild may want him to, well, wildly exceed that cap hit once again, though, and that’s where things get a little tricky.
Either way, Staal likely would have gotten more money or a better shot at a Stanley Cup if he went elsewhere, but instead gave the Wild a sweet deal on Monday.