USATSI_9141318_154158418_lowresThe Carolina Hurricanes have traded Eric Staal to the New York Rangers in exchange for two second round draft picks (one for 2016 and one for 2017) and prospect Aleksi Saarela.

This is the deal that most people have seen coming over the last few days, with the Rangers really zeroing in on Staal with the trade deadline just a day away.

Staal had to waive his no-trade clause to seal the deal.

Also, the Hurricanes are retaining 50 percent of his salary and cap hit. Carolina is already retaining salary on Tuomo Ruutu and Jay Harrison, which means they can’t retain any more salary this season.

There were a number of potential packages for the trade, with Chris Kreider once rumoured to be in the mix. With those rumoured deals well off the table, it came down to the draft picks. The ‘Canes now have nine picks in each of the next two drafts, which isn’t so bad.

But it doesn’t look like Carolina got everything they were after with this swap, but it likely came down to where Staal was willing to go.

The trade puts Staal in an interesting position, as he leaves his brother Jordan behind in Carolina to join his brother Marc on Broadway.

“It’s obviously something that I’d absolutely like to [do],” Marc Staal said on Friday when asked about playing with his brother. “It would be very cool. It would be a nice change of pace from playing against those two.”

Eric Staal has spent his entire career to date with the Hurricanes, but his production has been on a steady decline for the last while. The 31-year-old from Thunder Bay has just 33 points in 63 games this season and is line for his lowest totals since his rookie season. He was once relied on to hit 70 points or more a season, with 2005-2006 giving him a career-high 100 points.

He’s also shooting less, down to an average of 2.52 shots on goal per game this season. At his peak, Staal averaged 4.52 shots on goal per game and averaged over three shots on goal per game in nine of the 10 last seasons.

Still, it’s hard to imagine this trade sends a good message to Carolina’s fans. The club isn’t technically out of playoff contention by any means and the return on this deal signals a white flag of sorts, which is made all the more interesting when you consider that team owner Peter Karmanos is looking to sell off a majority interest.

Staal has been the unequivocal leader of the ‘Canes and the sun has now set on that era. The team has seven other unrestricted free agents going into this summer and have stacked up just $30.4 million in salary for next year, which suggests they’ll need a bit of help getting to the cap floor.

In Saarela, the Hurricanes are picking up New York’s third round selection from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The Helsinki-born centre is 19-years-old.

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