Staal deals with trade rumours, losing
When Eric Staal steps onto the ice against the Maple Leafs at the RBC Center on Thursday, hordes of television viewers back in Canada will dream of what the gifted centre would look like in blue and white.
They aren’t alone.
When rumblings out of Toronto prior to Christmas suggested a Staal-to-the-Leafs trade was in the works, the Carolina captain was besieged with inquires from friends and family from north of the border.
They called. They e-mailed. They texted.
All wanted to know the same thing.
Were the reports true? Was he, in fact, the big centre the Leafs have so badly thirsted for ever since Mats Sundin left town?
Standing in the Hurricanes’ locker room on Wednesday, Staal chuckled as he recalled how quickly his buddies back home made sure he knew the buzz the trade chatter was creating.
“Growing up in Ontario and growing up with a lot of people that I know are Leaf fans, they’ll let you know pretty quickly what they hear,” Staal said. “They’ll let you know what’s going on.
“(Trade talk) just kind of comes with the territory with what’s going on with the season. But I’m trying to focus on what I’m trying to do here.”
Part of the reason many fans found this particular trade suggestion more legitimate than many of the outlandish rumours you see on the web and in the twitter world was that the source was Bill Watters, one of the most respected and credible voices in the game. Over his illustrious career in the sport, Watters has far more home runs than strike outs to his credit, a claim few in hockey can make.
Having said that, Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford subsequently insisted Staal and goalie Cam Ward were not going to be moved.
“To be honest I wasn’t that worried about it,” said Staal, who has a cap hit of $8.25 million US on a contract that runs through 2015. “Those are things that are out of my control. If it comes to me, I’ll deal with the situation when it arises.
“It’s obviously nice that Jim said what he said. He’s a guy I have the most respect for and someone I won a Stanley Cup with.