Vancouver Canucks Free Agency: Top 7 Centers to Target

Jan 5, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 5, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Apr 4, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; New York Rangers center Eric Staal (12) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Rangers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

No.2: Eric Staal

After failing to be effective as a trade deadline rental acquisition for the New York Rangers, center Eric Staal, the brother of Jordan Staal, will look to find a new home  to resurrect his reputation as a capable first-line center  in the NHL.

Height / Weight: 6-foot-4, 205 lbs
Age: 31
2015-16 Stats: 83 GP — 13 Goals — 26 Assists — 39 Points
2015-16 Salary: $9.5 million
Expected UFA Salary: $6.0 million

Eric Staal is a once-underrated elite center now in decline. The size is there, the strength is there, and the shot is there with all the rest of the offensive skillset. The speed, the hands, the offensive awareness are all so sublime.

I have a hard time believing that Staal has fallen so far. Once a franchise center, now one of the worst rental acquisitions in recent NHL history. He recorded no points in the Rangers’ postseason, adding insult to a first-round exit at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Inconsistency and lapses in defensive responsibility are the few faults in Staal’s game. But he still has the tools. See for yourselves.

This shows the initial hand-eye coordination that Staal exhibited to knock the initial aerial pass down. He then skates strong to the front of the net where he tips the puck in one-handed (with his backhand!) while pushing Trevor Daly away with his left arm.

And the second goal shows great offensive anticipation capped off by an excellent shot from a tough angle.

Proposed Line
D. Sedin – E. Staal – H. Sedin

As it was with David Backes, Staal will be a great player who can play the faceoff dot in Henrik’s place while playing as the finisher for his two elite wingers. The Sedins needed speed, size, talent, and IQ in their linemates, and Staal is just that.

After a disappointing year, look for Staal to possibly take a little pay cut to get a long contract or to go just a couple of years at a high salary deal to prove himself.

If a deal makes sense, Staal could be the stop-gap option that bridges the gap between Henrik Sedin and the next franchise center whether it be in the form of a Pierre-Luc Dubois, Logan Brown, or another.

Next: No.1: STEVEN STAMKOS