The Buffalo Sabres traded forward Marcus Johansson to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday in exchange for center Eric Staal.
Staal, who turns 36 next month, comes to Buffalo with an impressive resume. Drafted second overall in 2003 by the Carolina Hurricanes – a team he captained for a little more than six years – Staal is one of just 29 members of the “Triple Gold” club, having won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006, a gold medal for Canada at the 2007 IIHF World Championships and gold for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Additionally, Staal has recorded 436 goals – sixth among active players – and notched 1,021 points, which ranks him eighth. He was on pace to finish with nearly 60 points this past season before play was shut down due to COVID-19 and doesn’t appear to have lost much of a step.
“Eric Staal has had a world-class career,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams, a former teammate of Staal, said. “There’s very few players in the league that, just from what they’ve done on and off the ice, command the respect and have the presence that an Eric Staal does.
“I’ve seen that up close and personal. We added a phenomenal player and person that I’m very excited about.”
The addition of Staal means that Dylan Cozens, widely considered Buffalo’s top prospect, doesn’t need to be rushed into a top role before he’s ready to handle such a task. Staal will immediately take over as the Sabres’ second-line center behind Jack Eichel, and will also reunite with former teammate Jeff Skinner, who shared a dressing room together for five and a half years.
Johansson, signed as a free agent last summer by the Sabres, had just nine goals and 30 points in 60 games in 2019-20. Struggling to find a home within Buffalo’s lineup last year, he bounced back and forth between center and left wing and didn’t excel at either position.
Staal has two years remaining on his contract at $3.25 million per season. Johansson has one year left at $4.5 million.