The Carolina Hurricanes' surprising inclusion in the the Eastern Conference playoff chase adds an unexpected element to the Eric Staal storyline.

It is unclear whether vying for a playoff spot will impact how Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis views the situation with his pending unrestricted free agent captain. Francis wasn't tipping his hand late last week when we chatted over the phone.

But I suspect it might make Staal himself ponder how much fun he's having right now seeing his team in a playoff race. Armed with a full no-movement clause, he's got a huge say in his own future.

Either way, Francis will be having a meeting of the minds with Staal's veteran agent Rick Curran sooner rather than later, a conversation that's been anticipated for a long time.

"We touched base last month and agreed to touch base towards the end of this month to see where things were," Francis said. "So we haven't had that conversation yet. There's still six weeks until we get to the deadline. Hopefully we're still in the hunt."