For more than a few seasons now, Marc Staal has been one of the biggest problems for the New York Rangers. How can they go about fixing that?
It’s not a secret that the New York Rangers haven’t had the best start to their 2017-2018 season. While many factors have contributed to this, a number of them are new problems.
From Henrik Lundqvist’s continued decline to the need for a true number one center, the team has their hands full with problems to solve. They only won two of their first ten games and earned at least one point in four out of their first ten. At this point, something has to change.
However, one of the most consistent problems over the past few seasons has been Marc Staal. Whether it’s lack of scoring or defensive mistakes, there just aren’t many great things to say about the 30-year-old.
The big question is, what can the Rangers do to get better? Doing something about Marc Staal might be the perfect answer to that.
Where it went wrong
Though he has never reached more than 29 points in one season, Marc Staal wasn’t always a liability for the New York Rangers. Back in 2013, he took a slapshot to the eye and his play hasn’t been the same since the injury.
While he has at least been consistent in his less-than-impressive point totals, they’re still not ideal. Something that hasn’t stayed constant is his defensive performance.
The 2015-2016 season was absolutely his worst year defensively. After looking better in the early days of 2016-2017, he was soon being outskated and looked like less than an NHL defenseman once again.
Although, the minutes he was being given and the defensive pairs he was placed on didn’t help his case either. Being on the ice in the final minutes of a crucial game, and with Nick Holden, was a situation that the Rangers should have never put Marc Staal in.
But, the focus right now shouldn’t be how horrible Staal is. Though he isn’t the most skilled player, the Rangers aren’t doing him any favors. He would probably be better off on another team, or in a different situation here.
The first steps
Obviously, there aren’t many New York Rangers fans who want to see Marc Staal playing on the team right now. However, benching him might not be the best path to take.
Over the summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Dan Girardi to a two-year contract, making three million dollars per year. The Lightning took Girardi by choice, not in any kind of package or deal. If they can sign him in a free agent situation, not in a trade, there has to be some hope for getting rid of Staal, especially in a trade.
In order for Marc Staal to draw any kind of interest, he needs to be playing. Benching him would simply send a message to other teams that he’s not good, and he shouldn’t be playing. That would almost definitely repel interest.
So, the first thing to do would be to somehow get Staal to waive his no-movement clause. Because of this NMC, his protection in the expansion draft this past summer was required. The team did have an opportunity to ask players to waive these clauses before the expansion draft but chose not to.
Staal is under contract until the 2021-2022 season, earning 5.7 million dollars yearly until then. The Rangers probably wouldn’t bench him without his NMC being waived, due to the longevity and cost of his contract.
But, we have to assume that a few healthy scratches in a row would do the trick. Maybe two or three games, just to send the message. At that point, his play could pick up, or, he could accept his fate and waive his NMC.
How to maximize his play
Assuming that, for one reason or another, Marc Staal waives his NMC, there is a lot that can be done. After a few benchings, the New York Rangers must play him.
It is crucial to put him in the lineup, to try to showcase any kind of upside that he may have. From there, there’s a chance that any number of teams could potentially bite on his contract.
Playing time shows that, when put in situations to succeed, Staal can be somewhat of a solid third pairing defenseman.
So, what can the Rangers do to make him look his best? First, his minutes need to be reassessed. It’s plain to see that, in 2017, Staal isn’t the blue-liner that he used to be. Which, in this case, is okay. He should be playing bottom pairing minutes.
For example, remember that horrendous mistake made by him and Holden in game two of the first round last year?
Yeah, who would want to remember that? The point is, Staal shouldn’t be playing in crucial minutes in crucial games. It’s just something that he is no longer capable of handling.
In addition, Staal shouldn’t ever be playing with Nick Holden. With Girardi’s departure, Staal and Holden are most likely the two worst defensemen on the team. Putting them together would be an absolutely atrocious idea.
In addition, if a team were to pick up on Staal, the Rangers could try to get a true number one center out of the deal. With Staal gone, they would have a chance to call up prospects and see what younger blue-liners like Pionk or Graves can do.
If the New York Rangers continue to neglect the huge issues that Marc Staal brings to the team, their less-than-ideal start to the season could carry into the rest of the year. Some sort of action should definitely be taken in an attempt to avoid that.