What Should the New York Rangers Do with Marc Staal?
The Rangers didn't exactly show urgency when trying to re-sign Stralman, as they were pretty quiet during the first day of free agency.
Pierre LeBrun of TSN tweeted on July 1 that Stralman would be headed to free agency if the Rangers didn't reach out, according to a conversation with Stralman's agent, and that is exactly what happened.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports Marc Staal would like to know what his future holds this summer, and rightly so. The Blueshirts' 2005 first-rounder is set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, and there is no clear-cut answer as to what should happen with Staal.
The recent situation with Stralman should swing the pendulum in one direction or the other, because there is no way the Rangers will let a top-tier defender walk away in two consecutive summers.
Therefore, the question becomes, what should the Rangers do with the native of Thunder Bay, Ontario?
Should they pay the man what he wants or should they look into dealing him this summer while he has value? There's a valid case to be made for both sides, and here's an analytical look at the Staal situation.
Making the Case to Keep Marc Staal
The main reason for keeping Staal is because he is great at what he does, and the Blueshirts still need him.
Ryan McDonagh is a bona fide No. 1, but the No. 2 spot is in flux right now. Dan Girardi had a rough playoff season and showed that he was vulnerable at times. Keeping Staal gives the Rangers another option when it comes to shutting down the opposition.
Kevin Klein isn't the best option to replace Staal, and neither is John Moore. Brady Skjei (6'3", 206 lbs) could be in two or three years, but right now, there isn't a top-notch option to replace Staal.
The loss of Anton Stralman already hurts the Blueshirts defensively, and Staal is going to be very valuable when you consider that he will likely be paired with a 38-year-old Dan Boyle who doesn't skate as well as he used to.
Having a defender like Staal will allow Boyle to be a loose cannon offensively, as the former's defensive prowess will cover up for some of the former San Jose Shark’s mistakes.
Another big reason to keep Staal is that he likely has another gear in him.
Staal was on his way to becoming one of the league's top defenders a couple of years ago, but a concussion and eye injury derailed his ascension to stardom. Since returning from both injuries, he has looked confident and strong, and that was evident this past season.
During the first two rounds of the playoffs, Staal was by far the Blueshirts' best rearguard, and he stepped up in a huge way while McDonagh was struggling/recovering from an injury.
Having Staal on the second pairing is a luxury for head coach Alain Vigneault, and it gives him the option to give McDonagh and Girardi an extra shift off if they need it.
Staal is an amazing defender, and even though he doesn't bring a ton of offense, he is very valuable. No. 18 is a prototypical shutdown defender who plays a physical game, is one of the league's best defensive defensemen and should be a part of the Rangers’ future.
How much will it take?
When you consider the salary cap will surely rise for 2015-16 once the NHL’s new TV deal is added into hockey-related revenue, it makes sense to keep Staal because the deal will be low-risk and he won’t take up a large percentage of the cap.
Staal is going to look at Dan Girardi’s contract as a starting point.
On the free-agent market, it is clear that he could make a fortune, but a deal in the range of $5.6-6.2 million per year over for three to four seasons should get the job done.
Having Staal under contract would then give the Rangers the flexibility to deal Klein and his $2.9 million cap hit. Klein's spot could be occupied by a rookie like Conor Allen or Dylan McIlrath until top defensive prospect Skjei makes the jump from the NCAA.
Making the Case to Trade Marc Staal
The New York Rangers should trade Staal because they need more help on offense, especially within their top six.
While Staal is a great defender who could really help the team this season and in the future, he has more potential value in trade.
The Blueshirts defense would take a hit, but it wouldn't be the absolute end of the world if he were moved. Klein was a top-four defender in Nashville, and it is possible that he could hold the fort down in the interim.
They also should trade him because it might not make the most sense to tie up a ton of money in Staal when you consider the money that is already invested in McDonagh and Girardi.
Staal is due for a raise from his annual salary of almost $4 million, and he may want more money than the Rangers are willing to dish out. In addition, there are a number of defensive prospects in the pipeline, and signing Staal would effectively push them back on the depth chart.
Dealing Staal would improve overall team depth and create a spot for someone already in the system.
Although he's a second-pairing defender in New York, he would be a No. 1 or No. 2 blueliner on other teams in the NHL. There are a number of clubs in the league that need a defender like Staal, and they would be willing to shed some offensive depth to acquire him.
A prime example would be the Edmonton Oilers. They are a team on the rise with tons of offensive talent, and while adding Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne was a nice start, they need one more blueliner.
Back in November 2013, the Edmonton Journal's Jonathan Willis speculated on a potential deal between the Oilers and Rangers that could involve Nail Yakupov and Staal.
Nothing has really changed, and it would be fair to think that the Oilers could still be interested in acquiring Staal.
Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and David Musil are all solid prospects that will be ready soon, but adding Staal would help the team now and in the future.
Staal would be an amazing tutor for these blueliners, and there's a chance he could help Justin Schultz as well.
Another reason for the Rangers to trade Staal is because he is getting older and there is a chance that he may only have a few good years left. It makes sense to move him before his value drops, and it makes sense to deal him while he is healthy.
Staal has played fine since returning from a concussion and eye injury, but there is no telling what could happen next season or in later years. It isn't that Staal is injury-prone, but it makes sense to move him while it is still possible.
What is Staal's value?
The 6'4", 27-year-old blueliner has solid value because he has a great contract right now and is a great all-around shutdown defender. In a trade, he could net a top-six forward, an NHL defender and a late draft pick.
He doesn't have a no-trade clause, which could help the Rangers deal him somewhere he would re-sign, because a team trading for him as more than a rental would be willing to shell out the necessary return.
After careful consideration, an observation of facts and some thought, it makes sense for the Rangers to try and trade Marc Staal.
The Rangers need some help at forward and dealing him while he has value makes a ton of sense.
According to HFNYRangers, Skjei impressed at last week's prospect camp and is looking like he could be a solid top-four defender for the Rangers in the next two or three years.
He is a left-handed shot, a skater in the same class as McDonagh and possesses good size. Skjei won't make the jump to the NHL this year, but he could next year. That is the same time as when Staal will need a new contract.
Skjei aside, the Rangers have enough pieces on defense to put together a respectable corps this year, and the trade-off of Staal for an offensive player would make up for the amount of goals allowed because of Staal's departure.
Staal has been a great defender for the Rangers, but dealing from a position of relative strength to fill a hole makes the most sense for the success of the team in 2014-15 and beyond.
If there are teams interested in Staal, and they are willing to part with a top-six goal-scorer in a deal, then it is a move the Blueshirts need to seriously consider pulling the trigger on.