“I don’t buy green bananas. I’m a coach.” — Bill Peters
The head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes deals in the now.
Which goaltender gives his club the best chance at winning the next game. Which three players he should tap to go find his club that precious overtime goal.
So when it comes to the uncertain future of Carolina’s captain, Peters focuses on Eric Staal‘s importance to the Hurricanes today, with his group two points out of a wild-card spot and trying to skate its way into relevance by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
The second-year head coach met with Staal once to discuss his impending free agency, on Sept. 17, then parked it.
“We talked about how he wanted to handle it. We put everything out on the table that day, and we’re not talking about it again,” Peters told Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski Tuesday on their podcast.
“If he ever wants to come into my office and talk about it, I’m here for him. He knows that.”
While Carolina’s strength rests in its emerging defence core — an improving, American-heavy unit spearheaded by all-star Justin Faulk — the affable Peters is quick to give praise to core forwards like Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and Staal.
A 20-goal centre nine times over, Staal’s production has dipped again this season. The 31-year-old has nine goals and 19 assists through 43 games and has admitted that this season has been more challenging than he expected.
Peters asserts that Staal is “a proven commodity” in the NHL, a versatile body still capable of serving both special teams.
“He’s a good player, boy. Six-foot-four centreman who makes plays, can play the wing,” Peters said. “Teams need that, and this team needs that.”
Even pro-rated, Staal’s $8.25 million salary cap hit could be cumbersome for contenders looking at him as a deadline rental, and his no-trade clause gives the player control here.
Staal’s agent, Ron Curran, told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that he and Hurricanes GM Ron Francis have been in touch but there is no critical timetable to resolve Staal’s future.
“The last time we talked, Ron suggested he’d prefer we wait until some time toward the end of January when he hoped to be in a better position to have a more meaningful discussion,” Curran told LeBrun.
The Hurricanes travel to Toronto Thursday, when they’ll try to snap their two-game losing skid against the Maple Leafs.
“We need to go on an extended run,” Peters said. “If we are a good team, we’ll be able to do that.”