Who Will Replace Jordan Staal?


Now that we have lost our arguably best two-way player to a broken right fibula, we have to start thinking about who will step up into his slot.  Jordan Staal brought a physical game combined with a touch of scoring finesse.  Whoever replaces him will have to contribute immediately.  Staal’s 6’4” 230 pound frame may not be able to be match by anyone except a big defenseman (and we can’t do that), but we are going to have to try.

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I can think of three different situations that Ron Francis and Bill Peters will have to entertain before the start of the season.

  1. Bring in a new center via free agency or trade:  I find this option to be amazingly unlikely, but it is still technically something to think about.  A relatively thin prospect pool, a lack of funds, and the fact that we have more centers to utilize will stray Francis and Peters away from a trade or signing.
  2. Promote Victor Rask (C) from Charlotte Checkers:  The big Swede (6’0” 200 lb.), a 2011 2nd round draft pick of the Hurricanes, finally broke away from junior hockey in Sweden and into the AHL during the end of the 2012-2013 season.  Since then, he has amassed 17 goals and 27 assists and a +4 +/-.  Bill Peters and the remainder of the staff have held Rask to high standards during camp and he has earned rave reviews.  He is the best two-way prospect, in my opinion, that we have available.  He could, dependent upon how Peters decides to utilize Riley Nash and Jay McClement, fit in with the second, third, or fourth lines.  Given his lack of NHL experience, it would be most likely that he falls within the bottom six.  This would move Nash to the second line and McClement to either the third or fourth.  This would also provide Rask with the necessary NHL experience that is key to a prospect’s future development.
  3.  Move Elias Lindholm from wing to center:  Lindholm, being drafted as a natural center, could slide right in to take Staal’s second line role.  His size does not necessarily compare, but he does have the scoring touch to contribute to the offense.  He has also only been in the NHL for one full season and still needs to clean up his two-way game.  But, he does supposedly carry the skill level of a first round draft pick and we drafted him to contribute immediately.  Now may be the time for Elias Lindholm to shine.  If Lindholm moves to the second line center spot, someone would need to step up lower down in the bottom six.  I personally would love to see the likes of Brock McGinn get a shot with the Canes to both showcase what he can do and to develop.  But, I think it’s more likely that we see more of off-and-on Hurricane Zach Boychuk and recent signing Brad Malone.  Boychuk has turned some heads this offseason and knows how to score.  Malone doesn’t have the scoring touch, but he is a bruiser.  Who plays more and who plays when is entirely up to Bill Peters.

These three options seem to be the most likely, especially the last two.  I personally would love to see Rask and/or McGinn get a shot with the Canes, but I can most logically see Elias Lindholm sliding into Jordan Staal’s second line center spot.  This would give Zach Boychuk and Brad Malone more responsibility for the foreseeable future, which could produce up-and-down results.  Losing Jordan Staal definitely places the Hurricanes behind the curve for the next 4-6 months, but we have to battle through it like we always do.  Someone just has to step up.