On Monday we talked about the Flames potentially targeting Cody Franson thanks to the Leafs less than ideal cap situation. The New York Rangers are currently in a similar situation, with only about $3M in cap space to re-sign RFA Derek Stepan
and John Moore, which might potentially leave Marc Staal available for a song.
Stepan is just 23 years old, but scored 51 points as a sophomore and then usurped Brad Richards as the team’s top center last year, managing 44-points in 48-games. He’s not going to be cheap to re-sign.
If Stepan costs $4.5M to retain
and Moore $1.5M, the Rags are going to be under water by about $1.5M. Meaning they have to find a way to become cap compliant in a hurry and the days of Slats simply burying a big deal in the minors are gone.
What are the options?
The problem for the Rangers – and for a team like the Flames would could potentially offer cap relief (for a price, of course) – is that almost every player over $3M (aside from Brad Richards – shoulda bought him out) is a fairly key contributor. Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Derrick Brassard, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist are the $3M and over crowd. Brassard and maybe Staal are the most expendable of that group, although Brassard went on a nice run upon landing in New York, so I don’t see them dumping him.
Marc Staal seems to be the best option. He has battled significant injuries over the last few seasons and seems to be slipping down the depth chart. Staal broke into the league as a capable defensive defender after being chosen 12th overall by NYR in 2005, but has since lost his spot on the top pairing to Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. After overcoming a devastating concussion from 2011 (delivered by brother Eric), Staal rcently suffered an eye injury this season after getting hit with a puck in the face. He appeared in only 21 regular season games and a single playoff game as a result.
Word is Marc is healthy and ready for training camp, but the Rangers seem to have built their blueline with a lot of redundancy in mind this summer just in case. They currently boast 9 NHL defenders (Staal, Moore, McDonagh, Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, Justin Falk, Stu Bickel and Aaron Johnson). That’s a lot of bodies.
Staal’s value to the Rangers has been significantly lowered by the emergence of McDonagh and Girardi. Outside of a shut-down role and given his price point, Staal isn’t terribly useful because he is fairly limited offensively (although he has spent some time on the PP and scored more than five goals twice in his career). He would be a decent enough 2nd pairing anchor for a guy like Del Zotto, but at $3.97M per year (with the real dollars escalating to $5.45M by 2014-15), it seems a steep price to pay for Sather and company, especially given their current budgetary needs.
How Good is Marc Staal?
The 26-year old’s underlying numbers have been fairly underwhelming for a few seasons now. At one time he faced some of the toughest minutes on the Rangers and kind of tread water, but in 2011 he dropped down the rotation and still got killed. This year in 20-odd games he was middling possession-wise, but probably because he had a fairly cushy zone start ratio (58%). Staal’s effect on his teammates possession rates in 2011-12 was pretty deleterious as well.
That’s only a small sample of games overall (73) and he has been playing through injury issues for the last two seasons, so it’s possible he could overcome those and improve. That noted, Staal has never been one to drive possession in the show, almost always boasting negative absolute or relative corsi rates. For context, McDonagh does a much better job in the same or tougher circumstances by the same metrics, so it makes sense he’s bumped Staal down the roster, even absent the injury problems that pushed McDonagh into that role out of necessity.
Staal ticks some of the boxes for Calgary – he’s big (6’4", 210 pounds), young, and can throw his body around. There’s concussion concerns and it’s entirely possible his days of being a capable top line shut-down defender are done. That said, he would still likely slide in as the 3rd or 4th best blueliner on the team if the Flames acquired him. He could also be a useful trade piece in a season or two if he could step in, stay healthy and consistently play top-4 minutes. At the very least, his pedigree would tempt trade partners at the deadline in 2015 (assuming the Flames didn’t want to keep him around by that time).
Like the Franson situation, ultimately it comes down to what Staal would cost to acquire. He’s a decent asset and a worthwhile addition if the Flames can grab him for pennies on the dollar, but not so much if the Rangers are looking for anything close to market value. He’s not the sort of singular player who could change the Flames fortunes, but claiming small, good value bets like this along the road of the rebuild is eventually how you emerge as a contender at the end of it.
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