For the third time in the last 24 months, Staal is potentially facing a concussion according to Katie Strang of ESPN New York, after colliding with Reid Boucher of the New Jersey Devils. And it couldn't have come at a worse time for the Rangers. The Blueshirts are now 15-15-1 after Sunday night's loss and could use a big shakeup.
Given Staal's current condition and his injury history, how should Alain Vigneault and company proceed if No. 18 is going to be out of the lineup long term?
Due to limited options on the roster and the blueliners available in the minors, Glen Sather should seriously consider making a trade for a defenseman that can eat major minutes. Justin Falk was signed to be a depth defender, and he can't be counted on to replace Staal.
Other than Ryan McDonagh, no defenseman has stood out for the Rangers. Vigneault made the same observation, and he talked about his disappointment in the Blueshirts D-corps with Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.
The only one on ‘D,’ in my opinion, that has really not only has played up to expectations but you see a lot of upswings with is [Ryan] McDonagh, Vigneault said Thursday morning, hours before the Blueshirts defeated the dreadful Sabres, 3-1. “All of the other guys, I think, have better to give. “We’re going to need them to give better.”
Obviously, Vigneault was unhappy with Michael Del Zotto given the amount of times that Del Zotto has been a healthy scratch recently. But Dan Girardi, Justin Falk, Anton Stralman, John Moore or the aforementioned Staal have not been impressive either.
Girardi is a free agent after this season, and he is certainly not playing well enough to earn a new contract.
Whenever a team is struggling to put together a winning lineup, it makes sense to shake things up. In most cases teams have a prospect that can be used to inject some life in the lineup, but in this case the Rangers have an empty cupboard.
Dylan McIlrath is not ready for NHL action and neither is Connor Allen. They both require more seasoning, so the Rangers have limited options. Because of this, Sather should give his old pal Jim Rutherford a call about Tim Gleason.
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, Gleason could be traded once he returns to the lineup.
According to The Hockey News:
[Gleason] is capable of playing a shutdown role, due to a combination of hockey sense, mobility and an aggressive nature. Also has a little offensive acumen. A good team player, he always works extremely hard and sacrifices his body.
This is the exact role that the Rangers need filled. Staal is a shutdown guy and a mobile skater, and he is known for his leadership abilities and work effort. Gleason may have an injury history, but his contract of $4.0 million for the next two years is manageable.
It is also conceivable that Sather could get Rutherford to sign off on a deal in which Carolina retains salary, and that would help the Rangers out. The Blueshirts have a number of forwards and prospects that they could send back to Carolina, so the deal could conceivably work for both sides.
Hopefully the Rangers find out in a few days that Staal is just having neck stiffness, and he is fine to return to the lineup. If that isn't the case, they will need to act quickly, because they can't afford to play inconsistently.
As AV said after the game, the team's compete level is currently at .500, and the Rangers will go nowhere if that trend continues the rest of the season.