Should the Flames Pursue Marc Staal?



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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      • The Last Big Bear

        Rangers have zero interest in moving staal he’s the best defender on the rangers. Delzottos the not d man I or anyone else see the rangers moving they have over 34 mill in free cap space next season staal will be signed long term. Delzotto is the guy the rangers are going to move once Stepan re signs with the club.

      • everton fc


        I’d love to have Dorsett here. But you all know that.

        As for Staal… Concussions scare me. I think it’d be great if her were re-united with his brothers. That’s a good move for Carolina.

        Franson still interest me. He’s a right-handed shot. And he’s no Babchuk!

        Not to change topics, but I wonder what would it take to get Dorsett? I could see a guy like him wearing a capital letter on his jersey down the road. I know the Rangers desperately wanted a replacement for Prust.

  • I think the Flames have a chance to get Franson without giving up significant assets.

    However Staal is a proven top 4D and a previous 12-overall pick. If the Rangers decided to move him I think there would be a line up of teams interested.

    As with Toronto, New York is going to be looking at picks and prospects. While the Flames could consider a 2-round pick and a mid level prospect for Franson I don’t think they can afford to get into a bidding war for Staal.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As someone who as watched Staal play regularly over the past 5-6 years, you are severely undervaluing Staal. He was playing some of his best hockey before the eye injury, and his loss on the blueline showed. McDonagh gets alot of talk for his defensive play, and he rightfully should, but Staal is equal to him or better at shutting offensive stars and plays a much more physical game. He’s much better than Girardi as well. His offensive game, while not overly impressive, is pretty solid for a shutdown dman and he has the skating ability to join the rush and get back to defend. His passing is solid as well. On the Ranger’s he’s a 3-4 defender because McD and Girardi have been that damn good, but on any other team, especially the Flames. He’s got a very manageable cap hit as well. I just dont see the Rangers trading him unless they get a considerable return, notably a bonafide top-6 winger.

    Also, John Moore is undercontract for another season. Not a free agent right now.

  • piscera.infada

    Didn’t this guy just get invited to the Team Canada training camp? Like Alex says, you don’t get guys like that for pennies on the dollar. Carolina, on the other hand, is probably willing to trade something real for Marc Staal.

    • piscera.infada

      I doubt a trade could be worked out between Carolina and NYR. I wouldn’t be trading Staal to someone in my division, nor would I be trading anything valuable in my division if I was Carolina.

      Tampa, on the other hand… But what do they really have? Not to mention they’re still in a bit of a cap-bind.

      • piscera.infada

        I’ve read on some Carolina blogs about them debating if they should just trade Skinner for Staal, unite the Staals & solve their D issues for comparable price. I don’t think we can compete with that. Leafs will want too much for Franson as well, but we could extort a good pick/prospect if we eat Liles contract for them. It would be almost too easy.

        • piscera.infada

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we could afford Staal or Franson (I don’t think we would want to give up what’s necessary to acquire either – obviously, the kind of assets we need in a rebuild).

          I’m just putting on my GMs hat for a minute and trying to look at this logically (not that Sather and Rutherford are the sanest of the bunch); and it makes little to no sense to trade Skinner or Staal in division. I mean, why would you want to force your hand and play Skinner head-to-head 4 or 5 times a year if you’re the Hurricanes? Likewise for the Rangers and Staal.

          I mean, I understand what you’re getting, and you obviously have to believe you’re winning the trade either way. But, both guys have been hyped by their respective organizations. You would just think that another team could still offer you something respectable (not saying the Flames), and you wouldn’t have to play that guy 4 or 5 times every season for ‘x’ number of years.

          • schevvy

            Yeah but if a deal makes sense & is a good hockey deal, it shouldn’t matter. Flames have made deals with Colorado before. Those that think its nuts for Carolina giving up Skinner, he didn’t have that great of a year last year, they have commited big $$$ to Eric, Jordon & Semin & have a huge hole on D. So from their view it makes sense.

  • SuntanOil

    If I’m a GM I would give Rutherford a call and see if he was crazy enough to be seriously considering trading Skinner for M Staal. If he was I would offer Slats whatever it took to get M Staal (within reason)and flip him for Skinner. I am sure Rutherford would rather trade Skinner out of the division.

    I doubt it’s a possibility, but who knows? Maybe with E&J Staal there they are dumb enough to think that Skinner is expendable? I’d look into it.

    It’s the only way I trade for M Staal because I believe that the moment he is a UFA he will sign with his brothers anyways.

  • McRib

    Cody Franson over Marc Staal any day!! Not to mention Marc Staal might be partially blind in one eye for the rest of his life. He has always been one of the more overrated players in the league for me the past three plus seasons. All the brothers are just riding Eric’s coat tails in my opinion.

    • McRib

      *relieved sigh*. I must admit, back in June when we were all arguing with Colin S (et al) about whether to be worried or not… I never thought we’d be here, at the end of July, FINALLY mentioning that Brodie got an extension. I never imagined it would take so long, I must say.

      Good contract. I would have liked it to be a bit longer….

      • T&A4Flames

        although it’s really not that long. they haven’t even gotten through many of the arbitration cases yet. The late end to the season kind of makes it feel like we’ve been waiting forever I think. I wasn’t at all worried that we’d have a hold out from camp or anything like that.

  • McRib

    Why did it take so long to sign him to such a reasonable bridge contract?? Guess the Flames wore him down… Lol. Nice to think TJ was looking for term and not money!!

  • The Last Big Bear

    I like this article, and I agree 100% with its overall conclusion.

    But the more I look into it, the more and more absolutely convinced I become that Corsi and Fenwick mean absolutely nothing when it comes to defensive defencemen.

    I’m not sure why that is, and its certainly not the conclusion I would have expected. But it is my inescapable conclusion after several years of looking into ‘advanced stats’.

    I have yet to see any valid way to numerically quantify the contribution of defensive defencemen.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      It’s no secrete that there are no real metrics(at least in the public domain) that measuredefense-first defensemen. If a guy and drive possession or put out points, then he’s a statistical loser. Personally, I see a great value in shutdown d-men, but there is measure tools to validate what you believe you are seeing.

      • The Last Big Bear

        Blocked shots means the puck is in your zone and the opposition is getting shots off.

        If you can’t clear your own zone, you can rack up lots of blocked shots.

        Hits depend on which buildings you play in most, because they are counted by the home crew in each arena, and there is a significant difference between buildings.

        Plus minus is only good for comparing 2 guys who have the same usage. If your defenceman is only played against the other team’s top scorers, and has a crap partner (think Jay Bouwmeester in Calgary with Butler), he’s going to have a poor +/-.

        I think the closest you can get is total ice time (basically just asking the coach who his best defenceman is), +/-, and GA/60 on the PK for guys who get 1st PK time.

        • The Last Big Bear

          Further to this: Anton Babchuk is a perfect example of why you can’t use blocked shots or +/-. He used to get a lot of blocks, and people used it to defend his own zone play. The fact of the matter is, he was just plain bad. And I can honestly say that I was always surprised to hear how many blocks he had on any given night becase I never remembered a single one.

          As for +/-, just look at the top players in that category in any given year. Aside from a couple guys like Bergeron, they’re never the same. And they’re often bit players on good teams. There’s pretty much no repeatability in the stat, and I’d go as far as to say it’s NEVER useful for the purposes of player evaluaton. Look at Brett Kulak. In his draft year, he was a team best +29. Last season, he was a team worst -34. +29 to -34 in ONE year. Did he get that much worse? No, and in fact he was the best player on his team by a wide margin.

          It astonishes me that anyone ever tries to defend plus minus anymore.

  • RKD

    He’s probably never going to be the same player as he was before those injuries. The Rangers do have a lot of defenders and will have to move someone out. The only thing is after two years, he would be a UFA and bolt to Carolina for a chance to play with his brothers.

    Definitely better defensively than Butler, Russell, O’Brien, Smith, and Wideman. If we can use him for the transition years it would be great. I think the Rangers will probably keep him because he is a core guy and will be needed if they ever get back into a long playoff run.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    You must be delusional… How would Staal be 3rd/4th on the depth chart for the Flames? Because he doesn’t put up the same amount of points as the other D-Man??

    Staal didn’t become a great D-Man based on points, he became one based on how on a daily basis, he would shut down the opposing teams top star, whether it be Crosby, Ovi, Parise, etc.

    He hasn’t had a full training camp/season the last 2 years. Guarentee you give him this, he is back to being a star D-Man.

    Where you think he is no longer a star, past his prime, think the Rangers need to dump him (can buy out richards next year, the salary cap will jump way higher by the time he is a Free agent), think the Flames would be able to get him cheap, is beyond me.