Thoughts following the Eric Staal trade
The long rumored Eric Staal to New York trade has been finalized. The Rangers acquired the C/W from Carolina yesterday afternoon –at 50% retained salary– in exchange for prospect Aleksi Saarela and a pair of second round picks in 2016 and 2017. A lot of people had a lot of opinions about the trade, and now that we’ve had some time to digest the move, let’s break this down.
1. Make no doubt about it, this team is better now than they were Saturday night. Eric Staal, despite his goal scoring numbers this year, is still a solid hockey player. He drives possession to absurd amounts (56.7% this year) despite playing on very bad teams. He only has ten goals this year, but he’s shooting a paltry 6.3%, almost half his career average. The optimist in my believes that there is a chance Staal goes on a tear with better teammates and a turnaround in luck.
2. I doubt Staal unseats Derek Stepan or Derick Brassard from the top two center spots. I think he winds up taking Jesper Fast’s spot in the top-six and on the powerplay, pushing Fast to the fourth line to replace Marek Hrivik. It’s the move that makes the most logical sense without requiring a major overhaul of the lines. It’s possible Staal could play the 3C spot –moving Hayes to wing– but I think that is a waste of his even strength potential. He needs top-six minutes.
3. As for the cost, it was significantly less than we initially feared. I remember talking about this a few weeks ago on the podcast that with Rick Nash’s injury, the Rangers may blow up the farm and get Staal. We then spent the next two weeks explaining why it couldn’t happen, only to have it happen, so what do we know? Anyway, the cost was a top-ten prospect in Saarela and two second round picks. That really isn’t terrible. The Rangers didn’t give up another first round pick, nor did they give up Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei, Ryan Graves, or Igor Shesterkin. Those are my top four prospects at the moment for the Rangers, and they held on to all of them.
4. Another thing: The Rangers didn’t have to give up a roster player to land Staal, another coup for them. The rumor, or fear, was that Oscar Lindberg would need to go in order to land Staal. But as Patrick Kearns pointed out on the podcast, Staal controlled his destination and it hurt his value. All in all, this was a solid move made to better a team that had some significant holes .
5. I know I really wanted Kris Versteeg, since traded to LA. Getting Staal –clearly the better player– for the marginal difference in price makes it a win. In the end, the no-move clause really limited Carolina’s options, and it worked out for the Rangers.
6. But as we said on the podcast, this can’t be the only move the Rangers make. The fourth line, as currently constructed, isn’t that good and the penalty kill is a train wreck. I expect them to make one more move to address both. Michael Grabner is a possibility, maybe the preferred option since he’s the most comparable to Carl Hagelin, at least in terms of speed. They think the defense is just fine the way it is, so another forward is where they might add. I highly doubt they address anything on the blue line though.
7. All this said, I don’t think the Rangers addressed the root of their problems with this move, or any future move coming today. Their issue is their blue line, whether they want to agree with it or not. They can get players to mask these issues, but the crux of the issue is the blue line. Until that is addressed, this team will need a lot of help come playoff time.