NEW YORK -- Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal wants to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season and many more after. He'd like to get there with the Hurricanes. That's where things get tricky for him.
Staal is in the final season of a seven-year, $57.25 million contract and said he and his agent have not had any negotiations on a new contract with general manager Ron Francis. The Hurricanes are 8-11-4 and seven points out of a playoff spot heading into their game against the New York Rangers on Monday (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG).
The lack of contract negotiations between a veteran player and a team that isn't currently trending toward a playoff berth makes it reasonable to suggest the likelihood of a trade is growing by the day. However, the Raleigh News & Observer reported last week that Staal's agent, Rick Curran, could meet with Francis early in December.
Center - CAR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 14
SOG: 51 | +/-: 5
The 2016 NHL Trade Deadline is Feb. 29. More immediately, there is a freeze on roster moves from Dec. 19-27.
Staal has a no-trade clause so he does maintain some control in the process. But he said he won't utilize his veto power if it's clear to him that the Hurricanes don't want him any longer. He hopes he never has to consider it.
"I've been here my whole career and I've expressed interest to stay," Staal said. "But if they want to go in a different direction then, hey man, that's life, and you move forward and you go from there. But you have to come to an agreement and we haven't even discussed anything like that yet.
"We haven't really talked about anything, to be honest."
Staal's heart undoubtedly is with the Hurricanes. He said he believes in what Francis is doing in trying to build the team. He's excited about the organizational depth on defense, led by 23-year-old Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin (18) and Brett Pesce (21).
He said he thinks the Hurricanes have played well at times this season, but admitted they have a lot to learn, such as how to hold onto a lead or build on one.
None of that is news to Staal, who knew growing pains were to be expected.
"I've been through a lot with this team and this organization for a lot of years and some trying times, doing everything I can, and I feel like we're taking steps forward," Staal said. "We've got some real good young players if you look at our roster, the ages and some of our defensemen. There are a lot of things that are hopefully cultivating toward wins and playoffs again regularly."
But Staal also sees the other side: the fact that he's 31 years old and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2009. He's desperate to get back.
"I think it would mean more being with the same team," Staal said. "Not a lot of guys play with the same team their whole careers and that's something I definitely have thought about."
Staal, though, said he also has to think about himself, his future and his wants, goals and desires.
"There are other factors that go into it, other decisions you think about," Staal said.
Such as a factor most players in Staal's position never have to weigh: His brother.
Jordan Staal signed a 10-year contract with the Hurricanes on July 1, 2012, in part because he thought he'd try to win the Stanley Cup with Eric. He's signed through the 2022-23 season.
Now Eric, the older brother, has to consider Jordan in the equation that eventually will solve his immediate future.
"As I have to make decisions moving forward, playing with him will definitely be a decision that will be thought about," Staal said. "He knows that. I know that. Both of our families know that. If and when I have to make some decisions moving forward, I'm sure we'll talk."
Staal is holding out hope that those conversations will be about how they can together get the Hurricanes back to being a consistent playoff contender year after year. He's also realistic that they might be of a very different nature, including good-bye and good luck.
"We've got a young group here that's got some players that are wanting to take steps forward and continue to get better," Staal said. "I think I can be a good part of that as we move forward. Whether they want that, I don't know. We'll see."