It’s hard to imagine the Carolina Hurricanes without Eric Staal or Cam Ward.

They starred on the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup team. They’ve become fixtures with the franchise. Staal has been the team captain since January 2010.

But the Hurricanes now have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs five straight years, and change is on the way. What once was unthinkable – the possibility of Staal or Ward being traded – could be part of the conversation should the Canes decide major moves are necessary.

Odds are, both will continue to be Hurricanes. Next season will begin, and Staal will be at center, wearing No. 12 with the “C,” and Ward in No. 30 and back in net. But so much uncertainty surrounds this team heading into the offseason, and anything seems possible.

Staal was asked Tuesday if he could conceive of himself playing for another team.

“I’ve never thought that, dreamed that or wanted that,” he said. “But obviously with where we’re at and where it’s been at the last little while, everything is going to be evaluated. And I know that. I’m smart enough to know everyone’s going to be in a position to be looked at and figure out what’s best for this organization and this team.

“For me personally, I think I can be part of the right things going forward. Obviously, my career isn’t going to be forever, and I want to play in the playoffs. I don’t want to continually miss the playoffs and have these type of interviews at the end of a season.”

The Canes’ Jordan Staal said he has sensed his brother’s growing frustration, especially late in the season as the team fell out of playoff contention.

“You could really hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes – he wants so much more,” Jordan Staal said.

But despite the disappointment of the season, Eric Staal did not sound like a player saying he has done all he can for a franchise and now was willing to move to a new team or Cup contender should the Canes believe it’s best to deal him.

“I’ve been here a long time. I love it here,” he said. “I’ve had success here, and I know and believe that we can have it again and I can be a part of that. Hopefully we can continue to improve and get better and get back there.”