33-Year-Old Center – Minnesota Wild
Eric Staal Contract Information:
Signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Wild in July of 2016.
Staal scored two goals and had an assist in Sunday's win at San Jose.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
At 31 years old, Staal finds himself at a crossroads – is he an ex-superstar who sputters out in his early 30s, or will he bounce back and show staying power? The jury’s out, but the Wild gambled with a three-year deal for the oldest of the NHL‘s three Staal brothers. Staal actually got in a bonus game last season, playing in 83 regular-season contests thanks to his trade-deadline acquisition by the Rangers. Unfortunately, that was the only impressive number on his line – the former 100-point man managed only 13 goals and 39 total points, by far his worst NHL season. He was dramatically worse in every phase of the game, often looking invisible on the ice. But he has an opportunity to put that behind him in a top-six role with the Wild, who have terrific talent on the wings that could make Staal feel young again.
After seven consecutive seasons of averaging around a point per game, Staal's production has taken a step backwards in the last two years. The 30-year-old recorded 23 goals and just 54 points in 77 games in 2014-15 -- his lowest full-season point total since his rookie season of 2003-04. While his scoring took a big hit, Staal still struck seven times on the power play and led all Hurricanes with 244 shots on goal. The 6-foot-4 center doesn't figure to challenge for the century mark or even 80 points at this stage of his career, but his dynamic offensive skills should still make him a universally reliable fantasy option. If his brother, Jordan, and speedy linemate Jeff Skinner can stay healthy, expect Staal to get back on track in 2015-16, with something in the range of 20 and 30 goals and 60 and 70 points being a realistic expectation. The top-line center is just too good to dip any lower.
Staal took a small step back last season, finishing with 61 points in 79 games for the Hurricanes. Keep in mind, however, that a knee injury suffered at the World Championships the previous summer likely resulted in a slow start for Staal, who had just nine points in his first 18 games. Last season aside, Staal has been the key cog in the offensive wheel for the Canes in recent years. He enjoyed a very productive lockout-shortened 2012-13 season in which he scored 54 points in 48 games, and prior to that he had seven consecutive 70-plus point campaigns under his belt. Staal’s name has been mentioned in trade rumours since the end of last year, however, he has expressed an interest in staying in Carolina, and should return as the team’s No. 1 center alongside Alexander Semin and either Jiri Tlusty or Jeff Skinner. Given the dip in his point totals last year, he could turn out to be a real bargain on draft day, so don’t overlook him.
During last year's lockout-shortened NHL season, Eric Staal managed 53 points in 48 games, producing his best points-per-game ratio (1.10) in seven seasons. Put it another way - over a normal 82-game season, Eric Staal was on pace for roughly 91 points, so if you had drafted him expecting the 70+ points he'd put up the previous three seasons, you got good value for your money. The only thing fantasy owners should beware of heading into this season is the third-degree MCL sprain Staal suffered at the World Hockey Championships in May. He's expected to be good to go once the regular season starts, but keep an eye on his status once training camp opens in September.
Having posted at least 70 points in each of his last seven seasons, the oldest of the Staal brothers proved in 2011-2012 that even in a "down" year, he can still be relied upon for strong fantasy production. Staal surged in the second half of the season after a disappointing start, recording 45 points in the final 42 games. If head coach Kirk Muller likes what he sees when experimenting with placing big brother Eric on the same line with Jordan in the pre-season, the Ontario native could be in for a big improvement off of last year's numbers. Staal is one of the most consistent centers in the NHL, essentially a lock for 30 goals and 70-plus points each season.
Staal had another solid season last year, as he strung together 33 goals and 76 points. There are very few guarantees in the NHL, but the big center is remarkably consistent, making him one of the surest bets in the league. In the past six seasons, Staal has scored at least 70 points in each campaign. Although Staal has never had an elite plus-minus rating, his solid play in all other categories validates his standing as one of the best centers in the NHL. Draft accordingly.
Staal's numbers dipped across the board for the second consecutive season, but he did inherit the captaincy from Rod Brind'Amour, who hung up his skates and retired. Of course, being the team captain comes with the responsibility of leading your team on and off the ice. We think Staal is the right man for the job, but he will have to lead with a better example by mentoring a crop of young skaters and helping the 'Canes swirl back toward the postseason. Barring serious injury, a return to the 80-point mark is reasonable to expect from Staal.
Staal is a road warrior who makes goal scoring look like second nature. After lighting the lamp 40 times in 2008-09, his fifth season, he became just the second player in franchise history to post 30-plus goals in four consecutive campaigns. Interestingly, Staal went against the grain based on his home/road splits from last year. In 41 home games he had 18 goals to complement 11 assists, but away from Carolina, he potted 22 goals with 24 helpers. Also, consider that Staal is second only to Jay Bouwmeester of Florida in the category of consecutive games played (336) among active players, reaching iron-man status well before his 25th birthday. He's the real deal.
Staal beefed up over the summer, showing up for training camp in noticeably better shape than the end of last year. Expect somewhat higher point totals, and a fair chance of a return to the 100-point level.
This will be his fourth NHL season, a point at which many NHL stars have enjoyed significant surges in productivity. Staal's disappointing campaign last year might be explained in part by injuries to his linemates (Cory Stillman and Erik Cole), which enabled opposing teams to focus on him. If those two stay healthy, then Staal's numbers will get a boost. Staal is an easy pick for increased fantasy numbers this season.
Staal is a dazzling talent, and will continue to thrive in the Carolina system unless opposing teams determine to focus extra resources on him. After posting those fine numbers in the regular season, he went on to tally 28 points in 25 playoff games. Staal is a safe bet to threaten the 100-point mark again this year.
If you're one of those fantasy owners who likes to take an occasional late-round flyer on a promising kid, to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle, then Staal is your kind of target. At age 20, he still has some maturing to do, but he will be an outstanding player in the future. If you're in a draft-and-hold league, he makes an excellent investment.