Canes coach Kirk Muller was posed with the question Wednesday everyone has been asking since Jordan Staal was traded to Carolina by the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Will Jordan and brother Eric Staal play together, on the same line?
Muller, who was in Kingston, Ont., last week attending to a family matter, said they would. Well, initially. For starters.
"I think that's the great opportunity with training camp, is to experiment," Muller said today. "We've got lots of (preseason exhibition) games. The first initial thing, right now, we definitely want to give them an opportunity to play together in those games and see if there's chemistry.
"Lots of times, until you put guys together ... you know, you've got to get a feel for it. I know they have a little history from before. But I think it makes sense right now to start off with them and see how they work together."
Both Eric and Jordan Staal are natural centers and have primarily played at center during their careers. But Eric Staal did play the wing for Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the two Staals did play on the same line briefly for Canada in the 2007 World Championship in Moscow.
Muller said he hated to lose center Brandon Sutter, who was a central part of the Friday trade with the Pens. The Canes also dealt away their first-round pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft (the No. 8 overall pick) and defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin.
"When you're talking about elite players like this you're always in a position where you have to give up some quality people," he said. "In this case, with Brandon and being a part of the team here, he was a special player -- young guy, part of the young group that's starting out and a part of the core.
"But we know it's not easy to get players like Jordan. The opportunity presented it self and I think it makes our team better. He's a big body, which we were hoping to get into our lineup up front. He's versatile, he's won, he's young. It's the type of player we want to be a part of our system here."
Muller was at Raleigh Center Ice on Wednesday, watching the on-ice session of the Canes' rookie conditioning camp. And a lot of eyes were trained on Jeremy Welsh, the 6-3, 210-pound center from Union College who should be a candidate for a roster spot when training camp begins.
Welsh, 24, signed with the Canes just a few hours after Union was eliminated in the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa. He traveled cross-state to Sunrise and played the Canes' regular-season finale against the Florida Panthers, making his NHL debut, before returning to Union.
"Great opportunity," Muller said of Welsh. "He already looks a little bit stronger than the last game. He must be doing some off-ice workouts so far.
"If I was him right now I'd look at the situation and say there's opportunties here. ... he's the type of player we're looking for, to get more size in our lineup. His skill level is there. It's up to him. He's still got to earn that spot but certainly there's an opening there for him."
Welsh, more than anyone, understands the "got to earn it" part. He said he has been working out in Calgary with a personal trainer, aiming for this week and then beyond to the Canes' training camp.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity but I have to keep up my end of the bargain and obviously over the summer just improve," Welsh said. "Obviously with Sutter being traded some of the lower-end center positions would be opening up. They've got a lot of good guys in the American League (AHL), in Charlotte, too, who have been up and down and will obviously be battling for those spots.
"I just want to keep leaving a good impression. You never want to leave a bad impression, especially over the summer heading into camp. It's an important week."