Friedman: ‘Staal and Hurricanes not close on deal’

Kris Versteeg was once again traded from the Chicago Blackhawks, this time to the Carolina Hurricanes with Joakim Nordstrom and a third-round pick for defencemen Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie and a fifth-round pick.

Sportsnet analyst and Hockey Night in Canada mainstay Elliotte Friedman appeared on Sportsnet The FAN 960 Monday, talking expectations for the Carolina Hurricanes and the current status of their captain, Eric Staal.

Staal finished the 2014-15 season with 23 goals and 54 points, which was the lowest point total he’s produced in an 82-game season since his 2003-04 rookie campaign. Staal is entering the final year of a 7-year, $57.75-million deal. According to Friedman, there’s nothing imminent between the club and Staal.

“The last I heard about this is that they’re not close, so that’s going to be interesting,” Friedman said.

LISTEN: Elliotte Friedman talks about Eric Staal

In Friedman’s opinion, the 30-year-old might flourish under a change of scenery.

“I personally believe Eric Staal would benefit from a change,” said Friedman. “I think it would rejuvenate his career. The thing is, he has a great setup there. Obviously he loves Carolina. The organization loves Eric Staal. His family is there, he has a beautiful home there, he is very comfortable.

“I don’t think anybody is going to come out and say that, but I have heard they’re not really that close in negotiations. He has control. He has a no-move clause, just like Cam Ward does. Carolina can’t do anything without his approval.”

The Hurricanes are currently seeking buyers, but owner Peter Karmanos has intimated that he would like to remain in a position that allows him to continue to run the team.

It’s in interesting situation, especially given that the Hurricanes are in the throes of rebuilding right now. While the desire to sell is there, it’s not a “desperation sale,” according to club president Don Waddell.

The Hurricanes fell to 29th overall in average attendance in 2014-15, down from 23rd overall in 2013-14 and 17th overall in 2012-13. Friedman pumped the brakes on any rumblings of the Hurricanes as a candidate for relocation, though, noting it’s a much different case than what the Arizona Coyotes are dealing with.

“I think it’s going to be a tough year in Carolina,” Friedman said. “They’re doing the right thing, but it’s hard. They’re rebuilding and they’re turning the team over to their kids.

“I think they’re going to be better than they were last year. They’re 100 per cent doing the right thing. But in those kinds of markets it’s painful. You’re going to see people poke fun at their attendance…but you know the commissioner. He is dedicated to these markets. I don’t think the Hurricanes are anywhere near close to moving yet.”

The Hurricanes open their season on the road with a tilt versus the Nashville Predators on Thursday, October 8.

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