Its been an eventful offseason for the Carolina Hurricanes and their captain Eric Staal and the coming campaign should be no different.
The club has a new head coach, Bill Peters, who has big plans for helping Staal recover his customary 30 goal per season form. Staal, 29, also underwent surgery recently to repair a core muscle injury that would've bothered him throughout the season without surgical intervention.
The high-scoring center, a former Stanley Cup and Olympic Gold Medal winner, is also entering a critical campaign career-wise. Staal has just two-years remaining on his current contract, so he'll become eligible to sign a contract extension this July 1st.
Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis has openly suggested that a potential extension for Staal will depend on the organization's internal budget. Presumably Staal could price himself out of the Hurricanes' price range if he returns to the 70-point form he demonstrated throughout his early-to-mid 20s.
That would be a 'good problem' though, and for now the Hurricanes - a team that, along with a small handful of other contenders, could find themselves squarely in the Connor McDavid lottery - have more pressing issues. Like, can they keep up with the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division this upcoming season.
"We have to make the playoffs. It’s been too long," Staal said this week, per the Hurricanes' website. "It’s been extremely frustrating for us as players and obviously for the fans and people within the organization. We’re going to put pressure on ourselves to do that, to get back there."
Staal thinks the club can return for the postseason, and is optimistic about the plan that Peters - his new head coach - laid out for him recently.
"He’s got a great plan and a good outlook, and he’s excited about the players we have and being able to put them in situations to succeed," Staal said. "He’s got ideas for what can make our power play and penalty kill better.
"You could tell just by talking to him that he was excited about working with the guys that we have and getting the best out of everybody. That’s all you can ask for as a player."
The key, according to Staal, is having the right attitude.
"We need to be optimistic, excited and positive, not hanging our heads and worrying about what’s happened in the past, but also being ready to push ourselves and add that pressure to get back to where we need to be," explained the Hurricanes captain.
[H/T Kukla's Korner]