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Dreger: Maple Leafs willing to pay 'enormous' price for Hurricanes' Eric Staal

If Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal were to become available in a trade this season the Toronto Maple Leafs would be willing to pony up in a major way to land his services, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.

Yes, the season is only one week old, but the Carolina Hurricanes are banged up and bad at the moment. On Tuesday night they lost to the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout, playing a third line that included Jay McClement, 22-year-old rookie Patrick Brown (who?) and farmhand Brad Malone. That's ... truly awful.

So it's no surprise trade rumors are already swirling around Hurricanes veterans like Andrej Sekera, Cam Ward and even captain Staal, with the Maple Leafs rumored to be particularly interested in the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning center.

"Very interested," Dreger said of the Maple Leafs' potential interest in Staal during an Insider Trading segment Tuesday night. "The key word is 'if,' 'if Eric Staal is available.' 

"I know this, the Maple Leafs have had discussions with the Carolina Hurricanes in the past, most recently in the summer about the potential availability of the Hurricanes captain. Now the asking price if Eric Staal is available at any point this season prior to the NHL trade deadline is going to be enormous. It would include a first-round pick, you're talking about either Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri - because a center would have to go back - and likely Jake Gardiner. But I believe that's a price that Toronto would be willing to pay."

A 6-foot-4, 205-pound natural pivot, Staal turns 30 later this month and is coming off the worst offensive season of his career. Despite his recent struggles, Staal remains a useful offensive piece and has been one of the most productive and consistent first-line-caliber centermen in the NHL over the past decade. Needless to say, he would represent a major upgrade over what the Maple Leafs are currently rolling with in the middle of their forward group.

Of course, the Thunder Bay, Ont., native has a no-movement clause on his current contract and would have to be willing to come to Toronto, a city he once gently mocked during the All-Star Game player draft several years ago. That isn't necessarily a slam dunk, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

"Understand this, Eric Staal has a (no-movement clause) and all things being equal, Eric Staal really likes it in Carolina," McKenzie said. "He likes everything about playing for the Hurricanes obviously except for the fact that they're not winning games.

"He's driving the bus," McKenzie continued. "It only happens when he wants it to, and to where he wants it too ..."

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