One of the keys to remaining an elite franchise in the NHL – or any sports league for that matter – is the ability to continually evolve, integrate players, coaches and systems and build a solid foundation on which a club grows. In the NHL, the best example in recent times has been the Detroit Red Wings.
Despite never enjoying the benefit of lottery draft picks, the Wings found ways to win Stanley Cups and be a consistent contender thanks to routinely excellent decision making and timely roster management. They are in many ways the model NHL franchise.
The Rangers have begun to show the same traits as the Red Wings over the past few years and it is therefore no coincidence that the Rangers boast a quality prospect pipeline, have their most successful season in recent memory just behind them and a bright future ahead of them. The Rangers however, need to continue with their evolution to remain successful and it is this reason why the club should seriously consider moving Marc Staal.
There are many reasons Staal is a ‘keeper’. There may however be more reasons to trade him. No one foresaw the rapid development of Ryan McDonagh. The young Ranger is arguably already the best defenseman on the team; is a future perennial All Star and has a more rounded game than Staal. With Dan Girardi and Mike Del Zotto fixtures on the blueline going forward and the likes of Mike Sauer and Dylan McIlrath in the mix the Rangers can afford to move Staal if the return is favourable.
The timing of all of this is also an important factor. While Staal represents good value for money, his (almost) $4m salary will be money well saved when the likes of Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and Ryan McDonagh come calling within the next two seasons. Moving Staal for picks and prospects would mean a crucial chunk of cap space can be spent on players that are crucial to the cause, something that Staal isn’t necessarily part of any more – thanks to the continued excellence of Girardi and the aforementioned emergence of McDonagh.
The Rangers have drafted excellently for the best part of a decade and Staal should fetch a nice return in picks, prospects and/or young NHL players. He’s a former All Star that is still young, with a dominant defensive game and the aforementioned solid contract; Aside from the injury issues there’s not much not to like. He’d fetch a fair return and it’s a fair bet that the Rangers could draft a batch of potential NHL’ers with the return on Staal.
Finally, there is the Carolina factor. With the Hurricanes attempting to reunite The Waltons the Staal family in one location there is an opportunity to get a club to pay over the odds for Marc Staal. You just know Jim Rutherford constantly has Eric and Jordan in his ear being him to acquire Marc from the moment Jordan was acquired this year. Would Jim say no to the franchise cornerstone and latest, big acquisition? One thing not to forget, Carolina are by no means guaranteed a return to the top end of the NHL with their recent moves so picks gained from moving Staal could very well be high end picks.
Make no mistake; the Rangers boast one of the best blue lines in the NHL in part because of the presence of Marc Staal. He is quality player, an excellent home grown Ranger and potentially a key part on the Rangers for a long time. However, he is no longer irreplaceable and any franchise that expects to remain in the upper echelons of the league owe it to themselves to look at ways of getting better. Would you take a couple of prized prospects and high draft picks for Marc Staal considering what else the Rangers boast on the back end? It’s certainly worth considering.