Eric Staal will play a prominent role for Team Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The 37-year-old has a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, and World Championship already on his resume. A strong performance at the 2020 Olympics will likely earn Staal a final shot in the NHL.
Meet the captains for 🇨🇦’s Men’s Olympic Team!
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) February 1, 2022
Eric Staal Olympics Performance Can Earn Him An NHL Spot
Staal has over 1000 career NHL points but wasn’t offered an NHL contract this season. That happened after a disappointing 2020-2021 campaign split between the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres. In 43 games, Staal only amassed 13 points. However, he did score eight points in 21 playoff games to help the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup final.
In recent years, NHL teams have favoured filling depth positions with younger, cheaper options. Still, some teams have found success in veteran depth, for example, Jason Spezza with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Staal was not ready for retirement and made that clear when he signed a PTO with the AHL’s Iowa Wild to prepare for the Olympics. In 4 games with the Wild, Staal scored 5-points.
If he can replicate this success in the Olympics as Canada’s captain, Staal will be a sought-after depth addition heading into the NHL playoffs.
Staal’s Career And NHL History
The 6’4″ center was a longtime captain of the Carolina Hurricanes and assistant for the Minnesota Wild. He brings leadership and veteran experience to any roster. As well, his offensive ability, including 441 career NHL goals, has the potential to spark a bottom-six group, or serve on a second powerplay unit. In 2005-2006, he won his first and only Stanley Cup as a member of the Hurricanes. That season he scored 100 points, followed by 28 in 25 playoff games.
Staal almost certainly chose to play in these Olympic Games for Canada with the NHL in mind.
While he won’t be lined up with NHL All-Stars like the last time he competed in the Olympics in 2010, Staal will have plenty of NHL experience surrounding him to aid in his comeback attempt.
Notably, this includes Daniel Winnik (798 NHL games), Jason Demars (699 NHL games), and David Desharnais (524 NHL games). In total, 19 members of the Canadian team have played in at least one NHL game. This includes youngster Mason McTavish, who spent 9 games in an Anaheim Ducks jersey this year.
Where He Could Land In The NHL
First, Staal isn’t likely to sign with a team not firmly entrenched in a playoff position. Next, the team will need to have at least a league minimum salary available in cap space. Positionally, he is a center but might slide onto the wing.
His former team, Carolina, would be an exciting reunion, but at the moment, they are one of the most cap-strapped teams in the NHL. Barring other deadline deals, they could still, however, make it work.
This leaves the remainder of the NHL’s elite. The Vegas Golden Knights seem to be willing to sell the farm time and again to get their Cup sooner than later, but Staal would represent a low-risk, high-reward situation. The New York Rangers have plenty of room, and with younger stars on board, veteran leadership would benefit their roster. The Nashville Predators are another team with plenty of cap space, and a need to make a deep playoff run. If they’re able to hold a playoff position, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings also have cap room. Both teams could use the scoring support. Los Angeles however, has a plethora of veterans, and another greying star may not help.
As long as Eric Staal can stay healthy, and isn’t a complete bust at the Olympic Games, he’ll have a group of waiting teams happy to take his services without giving up an asset in return. At 37-years-old, Stall is in control of his destiny, and is waiting and willing to fight for one final Stanley Cup.
Embed from Getty Images