Eric Staal was injured yesterday at the World Championships and while nothing has been announced on the severity of the injury, it is possible that Staal could miss time during the regular season. The Carolina Hurricanes will have some options on filling the captain’s void.
There is no way that the Canes will be able to fill Staal’s spot with another first-line center, but they could move Jordan Staal into that position. The younger Staal brother is not used to the top-line role, but he did perform it at times while he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins when Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby were injured.
Jordan Staal makes the most sense as the top center because there are virtually no other options. The Canes do not have the cap space to go out and find a star center to replace Eric Staal and the free agent market is bare. The three best centers that are unrestricted free agents are Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Tyler Bozak. Jordan Staal is better than those three players and is already on the Hurricanes’ roster.
Jeff Skinner could then slot in at center on the second line. The 21-year-old played center for the final three games of the season and may be the best option for the spot. The Canes will then need to find a third-line center to play that role. That could either be done in the draft, a trade or through free agency, but a third-line center is something the Hurricanes need anyways.
The biggest issue with moving lines around is that Eric Staal had chemistry with Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin, which would be difficult for any player to duplicate, but with training camp and preseason, things could work out.
Eric Staal will not be easily replaced. He is the best player on the Hurricanes’ roster and the leader of the team. If he is out for an extended period of time, it will be up to the team to make up for the loss, not just one or two players.