Wild veteran Eric Staal thriving at 33
As he approaches the homestretch of his 14-year NHL career, 33-year-old Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal is playing like a man nearly 10 years his junior.
Staal has 12 goals and 14 assists in 29 games this season, numbers that put him on pace for 33 goals and 73 points. Those would be his best regular-season numbers since the 2010-11 season, when Staal was solidly in his prime at 26.
He leads all NHL players 33 and older in scoring, and at a cap hit of $3.5 million through the 2018-19 season, is much more affordable than his peers.
Like Patrick Marleau, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs over the summer. He’ll cost $6.25 million against the cap until 2020. Or Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown, who will likely remain on the books through 2022 at $5.875 million per season.
|Patrick Marleau||Maple Leafs||10|
|Frans Nielsen||Red Wings||8|
Staal leads a group of Wild veterans who’ve chipped in offensively this season. Matt Cullen (41), Mikko Koivu (34), Ryan Suter (33) and Daniel Winnik (32) are the NHL’s highest-scoring group of 32-plus players.
|Team||Points (Players 32+)|
|Detroit Red Wings||68|
|San Jose Sharks||63|
And while the Wild are getting goals from their vets, the Calgary Flames — who visit Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night — are relying on their youth. Led by 24-year-old Johnny Gaudreau and 23-year-old Sean Monahan, the Flames rank sixth in the NHL in goals by players under age 25.
|Nikita Kucherov from Steven Stamkos||Lightning||14|
|Sean Monahan from Johnny Gaudreau||Flames||13|
|Mark Scheifele from Blake Wheeler||Jets||12|
|Sean Couturier from Claude Giroux||Flyers||10|
|Sean Couturier from Jakub Voracek||Flyers||10|
Shutting down the Gaudreau-Monahan connection will be key for the Wild. Gaudreau has assisted on 13 of Monahan’s 17 goals this year. Only Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov connection with center Steven Stamkos — Kucherov has 14 goals on assists from Stamkos — has been more productive.
Statistics courtesy of STATS