Latest on Eric Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jonathan Drouin and Chris Higgins in your NHL rumor mill. 

Staal deadline trade possible?

Is Eric Staal's time with the Hurricanes drawing to a close?

Is Eric Staal’s time with the Hurricanes drawing to a close?

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: With the NHL trade deadline now seven weeks away, Luke DeCock reports contract talks between Eric Staal and Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis appear stagnant. DeCock suggests a trade is possible, “even likely” by the deadline. Staal admits the uncertainty has weighed on him at times more than he’s let on. The Hurricanes captain is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and carries a full no-trade clause in his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s still possible the two sides could reach an agreement, but given the decline in Staal’s performance, he’ll have to accept a short-term deal for considerably less than his current $8.25 million annual cap hit. I suspect talks could heat up in February, with the outcome determining whether he’ll be shopped or signed before the deadline. 

Latest on Kevin Shattenkirk.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports “a couple of sources” claim St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s name is once again floating in the NHL trade rumor mill, though nothing appears imminent. He cites Shattenkirk’s eligibility next summer for UFA status and his one year remaining on his current deal at an affordable $4.25 million cap hit, as well as the potential difficulty the Blues could face re-signing him. If the blueliner is shopped, Seravalli speculates it could happen in an offseason deal, though he didn’t rule out a move before the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Bob McKenzie (via Today’s Slapshot) notes the Blues are thought to be very interested in Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin, but he doesn’t believe Shattenkirk is connnected to that interest.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Lightning would undoubtedly love to have Shattenkirk on their blueline, they’ll have to shed salary to make room for his cap hit through 2016-17. The thinking is the Blues could move Shattenkirk to bolster their scoring up front. It could take an offseason move to improve the odds of finding the right fit. 

Updates on Jonathan Drouin.

SPORTSNET 960 (via Today’s Slapshot): Elliotte Friedman claims the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators are among the clubs that have inquired about Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin. He also wouldn’t be surprised if the Columbus Blue Jackets were among them. Friedman also said he has it on good authority that Bolts GM Steve Yzerman “has basically told people he’s got enough contract issues, he doesn’t want any more. That’s why if he’s going to trade Drouin, he’d prefer young for young. A contract he can control for awhile, or a player who doesn’t have free agency for awhile.” He points out the Lightning have limited salary-cap space, meaning if he takes on a salaried player, he’s got to have salary going the other way.

TSN’s Shawn Simpson reports via Twitter: “Pierre McGuire mentioned Drouin could be traded this week.” He claims the Minnesota Wild are high on the list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of interest, as expected, in Drouin. Yzerman can take his time fielding offers. Friedman’s comments regarding the Lightning’s cap situation doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve been saying the same thing for several days, especially regarding the speculation linking Shattenkirk to the Bolts. Sure, Yzerman would love to land him, but he’s got to clear cap space to do it, either going the other way or in a separate deal. By the sound of things, he’s not interested in adding a player due a big raise in 2017 when he’s already got several notable players of his own to re-sign by then. 

Latest Chris Higgins news.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie via Twitter: “With cap hit of $2.5M this season and next, VAN knows it must retain salary to get deal done. A handful of teams contacted VAN yesterday.”

SPORTSNET’S Elliotte Friedman: “Matt Keator, agent for Chris Higgins, says VAN has granted him permission to talk to other teams. “We will work together on this.”

TVA SPORTS: The Vancouver Canucks will place Higgins on waivers today. Team president Trevor Linden told Sportsnet there was no interest in the winger on the trade market.