The cats have a slew of former Blueshirts in Anthony Duclair and two of the Staal brothers, Marc and Eric.
Marc wasn’t highly touted or paid like his brother Eric in New York. Yet the defenseman was a stalwart over his 13 seasons in New York, where he appeared in 892 games, scored 43 goals, and had 188 points. More importantly, he was a bruiser.
The Ontario native brought the tenacity those teams needed to make those deep playoff runs. He was instrumental in the Blueshirts reaching three conference finals and the Stanley Cup final 2014. Marc appeared in 107 playoff games with the Rangers and had seven goals and 20 points, none bigger than his overtime winner in the 2012 playoffs.
The 35-year-old has slowed down but has been a defensive staple for Florida this postseason. Having appeared in over 11,000 games, he has a case for the Hall of Fame. All that’s missing on his resume is a coveted Stanley Cup, which he can achieve with these Panthers.
As for Eric, a cup would keep him from being forgotten in the annals of NHL history, completing an inspiring comeback story. After going unsigned in the 2021 offseason after the Montreal Canadiens refused to offer him a contract, Stall resumed his professional career by agreeing to a professional tryout deal with the Iowa Wild of the AHL, an affiliate of his former club, the Minnesota Wild. He only appeared in four games and collected two goals and five points before being released.
But when retirement was beginning to settle in, Eric and Marc were both given one more shot, as the Panthers offered them professional tryout contracts last Summer, which they accepted and haven’t looked back since. Stall is the oldest of the trio, which also includes Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Stall, whom Florida swept out of the Eastern Conference finals last week.
At 38, this series is the last we’ll see of Eric, who will be remembered for his success in his 14 years as a Hurricane rather than New York. New York acquired Stall, and the remaining $5.75 million salary on his expiring contract was acquired from Carolina in 2016 for two second-round picks.
The center was expected to provide veteran leadership, given his previous playoff experience. Instead, he faltered, registering just six points in 20 regular season games, and was a no-show, going pointless as the Rangers were eliminated in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games.
New York didn’t bring him back, and Staal continued to hop around over the next few seasons, which included stints with the Minnesota Wild(2017-2019), Buffalo Sabres(2021), and the Canadiens(2021 trade acquisition). Some say the 18-year veteran who’s appeared in over 13,000 games should be considered for the Hall of Fame. But just like his brother, he truly wants a Stanley Cup.
Meanwhile, Anthony Duclair isn’t likely to be mentioned in the same breath as a player potentially enshrined in hockey’s hall for his accomplishments, he could be for his impact on the Panther’s stunning playoff run.
During his 18-game stint in 2015, his rookie year, with the New York Rangers, Duclair recorded a goal and eight points, but the Rangers opted to move him for defenseman Keith Yandle at the deadline.
Since then, Duclair has spent time with the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Ottawa Senators before landing a deal with the Panthers in the 2020 offseason. An Achilles injury took out a chunk of his 2022-23 season, but the 27-year-old has made up for it in a way with nine points in 15 playoff games.
The Golden Knights only have one former Blueshirt, 25-year-old Brett Howden. The center was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Ryan Mcdonagh trade, signaling the start of the “rebuild” in 2018.
Howden was solid in the bottom six and recorded 49 points in 178 games during his three-season (2018-2020) in New York. Injuries took a toll on him, and he wouldn’t be a part of the organization’s long-term plans.
As a result, he was dealt to Vegas in the 2021 offseason in a trade that brought back a 2022 4th-round pick which the Rangers used to select Noah Laba, who’s currently playing at Colorado University. Howden has three goals and six points in these playoffs, with his overtime winner in the Western Conference Finals being the biggest. of them all.
Next, a look at how these two clubs got here using their respective organizational philosophies and strategies. We’ll also see how the Rangers can learn from this going forward.