An era came to a close on Saturday in Carolina as the Hurricanes traded longtime captain Eric Staal to the New York Rangers.
In return, the Hurricanes receive top Rangers prospect Aleksi Saarela and two second-round picks. Saarela is the Rangers' best prospect, coming off a terrific World Junior Championship with Team Finland. New York is clearly going all-in for a Stanley Cup this season before the window for their expensive, aging team closes.
Since Staal is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, the Hurricanes have wrestled with the idea of trading the captain for most of the season. The franchise is in rebuilding mode, but the Hurricanes didn't expect to be sitting just four points out of a playoff spot a day away from the 2016 NHL trade deadline.
The other issue was trying to find someone who could take on Staal's hefty $8.25 million cap hit this season. To rectify that, the Hurricanes are taking on 50 percent of it in the trade.
Staal was the second overall pick by the Hurricanes in the 2003 NHL draft and won the Stanley Cup with the franchise in 2006. Named captain in 2010, Staal has amassed 322 goals and 775 points in 909 games with the Hurricanes.
Staal leaves one brother, Jordan, in Carolina to play with brother Marc in New York.
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