With an upcoming pro test with the Florida Panthers, Eric Staal will be preparing as best he can for his return to the National Hockey League (NHL).
The Ontario forward is enjoying a glittering career at the Bettman circuit, but it has been temporarily put on hold after failing to find a niche last season. His last run was in the 2020-21 playoffs, where he helped the Montreal Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
Last year, Staal joined the American League’s Iowa Wild for four games and also competed at the Beijing Olympics, where he served as captain of the Canadian team.
“I was on my own after losing the Stanley Cup final in mid-July. Then the next season started two months later and it didn’t work out [à Montréal]. Then it went nowhere. I was like, “OK, where do I go now?”. I stayed in shape and the games came, I had a lot of different experiences,” the former Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabers.
Staal isn’t the attacking player he was in his prime, but he brings 17 seasons at the top level with 1,034 points in 1,293 games. With the CH and the Sabers, he had 13 points in 53 games in 2020-2021, then eight points in 21 playoff games.
With his brother
The 37-year-old athlete doesn’t hide it; If he tried his luck with the Panthers it was because of the presence of his younger brother Marc. The defender has signed a one-year contract in Florida for the coming season.
“That’s a big reason why I’m doing this, to go out and see him and maybe get a chance to play with him. Firstly, it’s special to play in this league and secondly, to be able to play with my brother in a team that is aiming for the cup. It’s a bit of a dream,” said Eric Staal.
The two men also shared the ice for about twenty games with Rangers in 2015-2016.
The veteran is also impressed by the Panthers team, who, like him, have the goal of winning the Stanley Cup. He knows he has to work hard to break the formation, which is already quite competitive.
“It’s a great group there, a lot of very good players. I’m just looking for an opportunity to come back to the league and be a part of the puzzle,” Staal said.
Last year, by the end of the course, the Panthers had trusted another star, the great Joe Thornton. The latter has not yet announced his intentions for the next campaign.
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