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Eric Staal says he has a lot left for Wild

Center signs three-year contract with Minnesota

by Dan Myers / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Center Eric Staal signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Minnesota Wild on Friday, choosing them over "four or five" other teams that showed interest.

"They were a team that I kind of had on my radar for a little while now," Staal said. "Knowing I was going to be in this position, I was scouring over team rosters and looking for spots and opportunities where I could be put in a position to play my best kind of hockey. Minnesota was right up there."

Staal, whose contract carries an average annual value of $3.5 million, has a chance to help fill one of the Wild's biggest needs: depth at center. Captain Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula were the only sure things the Wild have.

Mikael Granlund, who has played center, was moved to wing during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and flourished there, and it's believed new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau is keen on keeping him there.

Charlie Coyle can play center, but most believe his future is brighter on the wing.

Video: Bruce Boudreau on Eric Staal signing

Minnesota was in on a number of potential trades to acquire a center last weekend during the 2016 NHL Draft but was hesitant to part with any of its young defensemen. With Staal signed, the pressure to make a potentially desperate move is relieved.

"The fact that we didn't have to sacrifice any of our young defensemen to fill these holes is important," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "I think the strength of our team remains the strength of our defense core (Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter)."

Staal, a former Carolina Hurricanes captain who will turn 32 on Oct. 29, is coming off the worst offensive season of his NHL career. His 13 goals in 83 games with them and New York Rangers were the fewest since he scored 11 in his rookie season of 2003-04. His 39 points were also the fewest since he had 31 as a rookie.

Video: Top Moment: Staal Scores One-Handed

"Let's be honest, when you're 32 years old, you're not the same player you were when you were 25 or 26," Fletcher said. "But we think this is a good situation for Eric, and obviously he felt the same way. We have some quality players he can play with, and we certainly have an important role he can fill."

Staal's points have dipped each of the past two seasons, but he said he believes he's in a position and with a team where he can revive his career.

"I think with just the way last year went and the one before that, for me, in my mind, there are a lot of circumstances that go along with it as to why things went the way they did," Staal said. "But I believe I am a very good player, I've scored a lot of goals, a lot of points in the League, and I still feel I will be a contributor and can be a contributor in a very good team's top-six.

"That's what I wanted going into today, and I'm going to get an opportunity to with a new coach and with a team that's hungry to win."

The Wild also signed forward Chris Stewart to a two-year, $2.3 million contract. Stewart, 28, had eight goals and 20 points playing for Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks last season. He played in 20 games for Minnesota in 2014-15 after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline and scored three goals and 11 points.

Minnesota also signed goaltender Alex Stalock, defenseman Victor Bartley, and forward Pat Cannone each to a two-way contract in an effort to bolster their American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa.

With nearly $7 million in NHL salary-cap space remaining, it's possible the Wild could acquire another depth piece or two in the coming days, specifically at forward.

"We were able to add a couple of quality NHL forwards, and we've added a couple of quality players for Iowa that will add great depth for us," Fletcher said. "It's been a good day."

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