Eric Staal will now play alongside brother Marc after Carolina trade him to the Rangers.
Family first, and hopefully the Stanley Cup second.
Rangers first-year GM Jeff Gorton swung a blockbuster deal Sunday afternoon to acquire forward Eric Staal, the Carolina Hurricanes’ captain and older brother of Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal, in exchange for two Rangers second-round draft picks and Finnish center prospect Aleksi Saarela, the Daily News has confirmed.
Gorton reacted to the pressure to win now in the Big Apple with a Manhattan-sized splash of a trade, seeing the need to bolster the Rangers’ forward stable to make possibly one last run at the Cup with this team’s leadership core and Henrik Lundqvist turning 34 years old on Wednesday.
TSN first reported the trade. The Rangers dealt their second-round picks in the 2016 and 2017 NHL drafts. The Hurricanes will eat the maximum allowed 50% of Staal’s $ 8.25 million salary cap hit, because the Rangers otherwise would not be able to accommodate him on their budget sheet.
Staal, 31, waived his no-move clause to facilitate the deal from the Hurricanes franchise he has called home since Carolina selected him second overall in 2003. He was playing with another one of his three brothers, center Jordan Staal, down in Raleigh.
Staal, a 6-4, 205-pound left-handed shot, is a former Stanley Cup winner and four-time All-Star who helps the Rangers in several ways.
He can play both center and wing, and Alain Vigneault prizes versatility. He has won 53.7% of his 323 face-offs this season, which immediately makes him the second-best draw-taker on the Rangers’ roster behind only Dominic Moore (55.8%).
Staal had nine goals and 28 points in 25 playoff games to help the Hurricanes capture the 2006 Stanley Cup. The Thunder Bay, Ontario, product is a member of the “Triple Gold Club” owning a Canadian Olympic gold medal, a Stanley Cup ring and a World Championship gold.
Staal advanced to the postseason only twice in 12 seasons with Carolina, but he compiled 322 goals and 775 points through 909 regular season games and 19 goals and 43 points in 43 career postseason matches.
He served as Carolina’s captain for parts of the last seven seasons after he was named the 13th captain in the history of the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise on Jan. 20, 2010. He made his last All-Star Game in 2010-11.
The history between brothers Eric and Marc, 29, unfortunately isn’t all rosy, due to Eric’s crushing hit on his brother in Feb. 2011. Marc returned to play that spring but eventually was sidelined for the first half of the following season due to debilitating concussion symptoms.
Eric Staal, though, defended himself in Nov. 2011 at the Garden, said the incident was “behind us” and blamed “other decisions” for Marc’ injury than just his hit.
“There were a lot of steps that happened after that hit that probably have put him in the position that he’s in now,” Eric Staal said at the time. “I don’t think it’s just that hit. It’s not like I hit him and he’s been done since that point. He played, he came back, and he’s in and out. And I think there’s a lot of other decisions and things after that that have led to where he is now, but that – like I said before – is all behind us and behind him, and now we’re looking forward, and he’s healing and on the right track to getting back.”
Gorton did part with a valuable asset to get Staal, though.
The Rangers were high on Saarela, 19, their 89th overall pick in the third round of last year’s draft who is playing for Assat in the Finnish Elite League (Liiga). Saarela helped Finland capture a gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship and has 18 goals and 31 points in 46 games this season.
The Rangers general manager will be conducting a conference call at 3 p.m. ET.
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