Eric Staal’s uncertain future with the Carolina Hurricanes, more speculation over possible moves by the Chicago Blackhawks and the New Jersey Devils need for scoring depth in your NHL rumor mill. 

Eric Staal’s uncertain future.

Will Eric Staal finish this season with the Hurricanes?

Will Eric Staal finish this season with the Hurricanes?

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander reports Eric Staal, a pending UFA at season’s end, faces an uncertain future with the Carolina Hurricanes. Contract talks beween Staal’s agent and Hurricanes GM Ron Francis are expected to commence in mid-January. Neither sides has exchanged contract term length or dollars. If a deal can’t be reached before the Feb. 29 trade deadline, Alexander speculates Staal could be shopped.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal must accept a considerable pay cut on a much shorter term if he hopes to remain with the Hurricanes. His declining production is certainly not worth an expensive, lengthy contract extension. Despite the decline in his offense, there’s some observers who believe Staal can regain his mojo with a deeper club. If Francis shops Staal at the deadline, there will be considerable interest. 

What moves could the Blackhawks make?

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Mark Lazerus wonders if the Blackhawks need a top-four defenseman more than a bottom-six forward. While GM Stan Bowman lacks the salary-cap space to pursue a big-ticket rental like Eric Staal, Kyle Okposo or Dustin Byfuglien, he has a history of swinging late-season deals that help his club. Lazerus speculates Bowman will likely pursue a defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowman’s already made a move regarding his defense, shipping Trevor Daley to Pittsburgh for Rob Scuderi, but that was more to free up cap space than to address the need for a skilled top-four rearguard. General Fanager indicates the ‘Hawks have just over $1.6 million in cap space, so Bowman’s got some wiggle room to work with near the trade deadline. However, it’s finding the right fit and what he’s willing to part with in return that will determine if he lands that elusive blueliner. He’ll likely target a pending UFA as a rental player. 

What will the Devils do?

NJ.COM: Rich Chere wonders if the New Jersey Devils will be buyers or sellers by the trade deadline. It might be tempting to trade veterans like Lee Stempniak for draft picks at the deadline, but if the Devils remain in playoff contention, maybe GM Ray Shero tries to bolster his roster. Chere feels it’s necessary for the Devils to add a goal scorer. If they can’t find one via free agency this summer, they might have to make a significant trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shero has depth in defense to draw upon if he wants to pursue a scorer. The Devils are currently holding a wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. If they’re still in contention by the deadline, I expect Shero will shop for an affordable rental scorer.