Levi John Staal was pretty upset when he heard that his dad had been traded from the Hurricanes to the Rangers.
“My 4-year-old just kept telling me, ‘I don’t want you to move away,’ ’’ Eric Staal recalled Monday, “I said: ‘I’m not leaving without you.’ ”
As it turned out, the Staals, including Levi, Parker, 6, and mom, Tanya, flew to New York Sunday and stayed in a hotel. “We had a couple [new] jerseys and they had them on in the room,” Staal said. “So they’re excited and I’m glad they’re here to enjoy the first couple days with me and get me settled, and then they’ll probably go back.”
On Monday, Staal turned his attention to his new club. “This is where I wanted to go and where I wanted to be,” said Staal, 31, in the final year of his contract with the Hurricanes, with whom he played for 12 seasons.
For the past three seasons, he had played with brother Jordan, 27. Now he joins brother Marc, 29, in Broadway Blue.
“With Marc being here is an extra benefit,’’ he said, “but even if he wasn’t here, this is still a great spot for me at this time in my career . . . I feel like I’ve got a lot of hockey life left in me.”
Eric Staal, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, played 15:43 and had one shot on goal Monday night in the Rangers’ 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“He’ll be an important piece for us going forward,” Marc said. “He wasn’t going to come here if he didn’t think we had the kind of team to make a deep run. He hasn’t been in the playoffs for six years. It’s definitely a big change for him and his family. But he’s been here before, in the playoffs, watching us play. I don’t need to give him any advice. He’s played in this league a long time.”
It was tough for Jordan, too. “He’s been playing so well . . . but we knew as the year progressed that this was a possibility,” Eric said. “That still doesn’t make it any easier. But he understands the business, we had a good embrace on the way out, and he’s excited for me.”
Given that he won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and served as the team’s captain, this is a significant shift, Eric said. “You’re leaving a lot of people you care about, but the opportunity to be on a great team, to play with Marc, it’s too good to pass up,’’ he said. “The core group they have here, which starts with the goaltender . . . are battle-tested, they played big games . . . they haven’t got it done yet, but they’re very close.”