Marc Staal will be on the New York Rangers’ opening night roster. Here’s how Alain Vigneault and co. should handle that.
The New York Rangers rid themselves of their Dan Girardi problem this offseason. However, Marc Staal remains as an anchor for the remainder of the defense. Once one of the better defensemen on the team, Staal now regularly detriments New York’s chances of winning hockey games. You don’t need to be an expert to know that’s bad.
However, New York opted not to buyout Staal’s contract, and either failed or did not try to trade the long-time Ranger. With those truths considered, Staal will be on the opening night roster yet again.
Like any detriment, the key is to limit the damage. It’s unfortunate to have to speak that way about Staal, but it’s the reality of the current situation. Let’s take a look at how the New York Rangers should handle their albatross.
Option #1: Build Trade Value
This is a difficult option, as Staal may hurt his trade value more than helping it no matter what the Rangers do. The key here is to provide Staal with regular playing time, hope an opposing team suffers an injury on defense, and trade Staal as soon as possible. Of course this is unlikely due to the need to retain salary in such a deal, as well as the nearly impossible chances a team takes on Staal’s salary during the season.
However, it can’t hurt to try. This option prevents Staal from sitting in the press box all season, while also doing everything possible to rebuild his value. Staal can play in various situations, but in a sheltered role. Using him correctly may uncover some semblance of talent he has remaining.
Option #2: Marc Staal, Meet the Press Box
This option is rather cruel towards Staal, but it also helps the team succeed. New York can simply let Staal sit in the press box. All. Season. Long. This would be a wildly inefficient practice by the team, as they would be paying a healthy player $5.7 Million not to play. The NHLPA may try to get involved, and the locker-room turmoil that could transpire may make it unworth the trouble alone.
However, if the Rangers are in the business of maximizing the on-ice talent, Marc Staal should be nowhere near the ice. This is the best option that prevents Staal from getting into games for the Rangers, as cruel as the option may be.
Option #3: Rotating the Rangers’ Problems
While in a perfect world the Rangers would play Ryan Graves or Neal Pionk as their sixth defenseman, that will not be the case. That considered, this is the best option for the Rangers to choose.
Marc Staal is lucky in that New York also employs Nick Holden, who, like Marc Staal, is terrible at hockey. While Holden boasts some ability, New York suffers when he is on the ice. We have long joked about Marc Staal and Dan Girardi being the “Wonder Twins,” but now Staal and Holden fill the roles.
The key is to never have the two on the ice at the same time. Anthony DeAngelo must be the steady fifth defenseman, while Steven Kampfer should not be allowed near ice. Not even at a restaurant, just to be safe.
Though Staal and Holden remain terrible, they need playing time to build up any trade value they may have. If New York puts together a regular rotation swapping the two in the lineup (Staal plays every other game, is scratched for the others in favor of Holden) both players get their chances to impress opposing teams, while the Rangers have only one detrimental defenseman in the lineup.
New York can easily spin this as having too many defensemen on the roster, not making it look like they don’t want one of the two. It makes a trade slightly more possible, which is a tremendous victory in itself.
Although the best case scenario is for Staal to not play for the Rangers ever again, splitting time with Nick Holden in a heavily sheltered sixth defenseman role is the best option moving forward for the Rangers, assuming they will not play Graves or Pionk.