The Minnesota Wild have traded forward Eric Staal to the Buffalo Sabres for Marcus Johansson Wednesday.
“Eric Staal was a positive influence on guys, but sometimes it’s just change is good for us,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said. “This is part of it. We need to mix things up. We need to find a different pathway to success, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build a better team, and sometimes you have to take some drastic measures.”
The 35-year-old Staal had 47 points in 66 games this season, plus five points in four games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. He has a year to go on his current contract.
The Sabres are getting a clear leader in the locker room who can still produce, so it’s a nice pickup for a young team looking for guidance. Staal can slot in behind Jack Eichel on the depth chart, plus he has experience skating with Sabres winger Jeff Skinner in Carolina.
For Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams, who won a Cup with Staal as a Hurricane in 2006, there are many benefits.
“Obviously, strengthening ourselves up the middle is important,” Adams said. “To me, being able to look around the league and to be able to target and identify a player like Eric was really important. So it was something we very much were looking at doing.”
In 1,240 games with the Hurricanes, New York Rangers, and Wild, Staal has 1,021 career points – including 436 goals and 585 assists. He also has 51 points in 62 playoff games. Staal notched a career-high 100 points in 2005-2006, back when Carolina scooped its first Stanley Cup.
Johansson spent one season with the Sabres, scoring nine goals and adding 21 assists. Like Staal, he has a season to go on his current contract. In 648 career games, the 29-year-old has 364 points.
The Wild are banking on giving Johansson lots of opportunity, which could lead to higher production. He managed at least 40 points in five seasons throughout his career, but offensive production has been spotty at best. Minnesota’s head coach Dean Evason is hoping to change that.
Image: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports