The case against buying out Marc Staal and/or Brendan Smith

The more days that pass, the more focus intensifies on the blue line. Of course nothing is likely to change on that front until the draft, but with about 18 players vying for 14 spots in the NHL and AHL, something is bound to happen. Kevin Shattenkirk’s future in New York has been discussed ad nauseam, but for some unknown reason there hasn’t been too much chatter on Brendan Smith and/or Marc Staal, both of whom could be headed for a buyout.

First things first, buying out Staal or Smith makes infinitely more sense than buying out Shattenkirk. Neither has trade value, whereas Shattenkirk at 50% can still bring back an asset or two.

Now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s look into the specifics. Staal has two years left on his deal at a $5.7 million cap hit. A buyout this summer would lower his cap hit to $2.9 million this year and $3.7 next year, with a pair of $1.2 million years after. Smith has two years left at $4.35 million, and his cap hit lowers to $970k this season and $3.145 million next season, with a pair of $1.145 million seasons after. This is on top of the $1.1 million cap hit from Dan Girardi’s buyout. After a while, this stuff adds up.

The benefits from buying them out are clear. The Blueshirts get at least $2 million in savings this year and next while taking a minimal cap hit the following two seasons. Staal has been awful for quite some time, and Smith, while still a viable bottom pairing guy, is just not a good fit anymore. Buying them out also clears out two much needed roster spots for the kids.

But let’s dig deeper here. On the surface, clearing out cap and roster space is always important. However the Rangers aren’t really hurting for cap space right now. The only way they’d be desperate is if they plan on going after two big name free agents, whoever they might be. Even adding one free agent –Artemi Panarin at $11 million– doesn’t really impact their cap situation much. Saving $2 million doesn’t move the needle.

But you know what may impact the Rangers? Having $1.2 million in dead space in 2021-22 and 2022-23. Let’s look at who is due new contracts:

In a rare twist, cap space today for the Rangers is worth less than cap space tomorrow. Extending the cap hit and pain of two bad contracts could be looked at as the exact opposite of what they need in this rebuild. Heck, we are always talking about taking on Ryan Callahan and his bad contract in order to get another good prospect from Tampa.

It is virtually impossible to predict the cap situation in two seasons, but we can have some actual foresight for once and plan ahead. Imagine, for a second, buying out both Staal and Smith and having $3.45 million in cap space that is completely unavailable to re-sign what could be eight important players.

Perhaps the best bet for dumping these contracts is to just ride them out. Perhaps the best way to use their cap space is to keep their own bad contracts. It’s boring, but a boring rebuild is a rebuild done right.

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  • Staal is in the opening night line up, I can almost guarantee it.

    Brooks saying that the Rangers are finding zero takers for Shatty and Smith, even at 50% retention, so what other options are them for those 2? Other than just buying them out?

    I think the Shatty buyout is predicated on whether the Rangers get a RH D upgrade (Trouba, Brodie, etc.). But I caution on Brodie as his play is definitely influenced by Giordano, a great D man. And if Shatty is bought out, it will come with the 2nd buyout period after the Rangers see what they have at that point.

    All bridge deals for the RFAs this year, I agree David. CK’s contract requests determine whether he’s traded or not.

    Interesting that Brooks says that Kakko’s best position may be center, and if that is true, then we have our 2C with either Kakko or Hughes. So no need to do something stupid like overpay Hayes and hate him for 6 years.

    D corps that will be in the line up: Staal, Skjei, Fox, DeAngelo. That leaves 2 spots. Rykov may start in Hartford but he may need a spot soon. Hajek needs a spot. Lindgren may be the 7th D. That leaves Pionk, Shatty, and Smith to be shown the door, some how, some way.

    • Tony

      I read that article by Brooks, and said to myself how ironic it is that everyone wanted Shatty in the first place, and now we can’t get rid of him, even at 50% discount.

      I’ve stated sooooooo many times how much I hate buyouts, and here we are again doing the same thing again. How history repeats itself, go for instant gratification only to have buyers remorse just five minutes after the ink dried. How much money in dead cap space are we going to have, it’s just stupid but we have to do it to make the roster openings needed to play better players.

      I have no problem with getting rid of Shatty, Staal, and Pionk, but I’d keep Smith again for his versatility. His is the smallest of the contracts, shortest time, and could be sent down to the AHL in worst case scenario. We’ll see soon enough, but let this be a lesson, don’t sign old farts to long term deals!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Walt – I’m with you.

        The root cause of buyouts are stupid contracts. Just look at Lucic and Erikson – both of them very good players who seemed to hit their performance wall the day after they signed and now those contracts are so bad they might swap them for each other just shake it up.

        I don’t see any compelling reason to buying anyone out. To create more cap space? There is already chatter about taking a bad contract (Cally’s going to Buff). So we are going to buy guys out to create cap space to take on a bad contact?

        This postseason I don’t buyouts, I don’t do LT deals for RFA’s, and I don’t chase Trouba when I can have him next year for nuttin’ honey…

        There is so many D-men in the picture now, let’s just assemble all those bodies in camp and have a gold old-fashioned bakeoff and let the chips fall where they may.

        In addition to the final seven of last year there is now Fox, Hajek, Lindgren, Rykov, Day, Keane, and more in camp. Something has to give but let’s see what a new season brings and go from there instead of just of just dumping money now.

        Also, I am not for a minute buying Brooks story about Shatty. Personally, I think he is going to come into camp with a chip on his shoulder. He is an NHL veteran with some very useful skills. Defense just is not one of them.

        And Smith? A guy who can play D and be a forward seems pretty useful to me. He has already shown he will go to Hartford. If he is a bake-off casualty you can bury close to $1 Mil by sending him to the Wolve’s.

        Other than chasing Panarin, who is a game-changer, I view this as a “let’s see what we got” year. And it should be very entertaining and a transition back into the playoffs.

        Quinn has a year under his belt and the returnees have a better idea of where Quinn’s bus is headed. Igor, Kravtsov, and Individual #2 will be in the house and the D personnel will turnover, get younger and hopefully better.

        Oh Baby…..

        One other question – Why is Lindy Ruff still the “D” coach?

      • Walt, I know that every Ranger fan (just about) likes to pile on Shatty and the Rangers for signing him. And maybe you and the rest are right about that.

        But as I said the other day, it’s not cut and dry due to circumstances that existed. I wonder what would have happened if he didn’t hurt his knee. Maybe the same result, maybe not.

        To be really honest, I thought the Rangers did the right thing by signing at the time, and him accepting only 4 years, I thought it was a very good contract at the time.

    • Although this is far from ideal, put Smith at Hartford. Forever Blueshirts has an article about the need for veteran presence to make a better environment there. AND, extra room for actual NHL D-men. Such a shame he didn’t work out too well!

      • Hank

        What you say is spot on, but the Rangers are too classy to do this to Smith. If anything, they trade him for a bag of pucks, but I don’t see them sending Smith to the AHL for the season. I said the same thing above, but the more I thought about it, the more I’m convinced they buy him out before they embarrass him!!!!!!!

        • Hey Walt… is that why they’re playing Staal every freakin game so not to embarrass him by sitting him? He’s doing a great job of embarrassing himself. I can’t take another season in which Staal takes up a spot that could be taken by a Rykov or Hajek or even Claesson.

          I HATED the idea of a buyout for any player, but screw it, buy him out NOW! I need to see these young guys in the lineup. Sorry, but if they have to bury Smith in Hartford do it! Even if it means only marginal cap relief.

          • Cat

            Settle down my man, I’m with you on Staal, but Smith can be moved easier I believe. Just a thought, and I’ll catch hell for it, but the Pens are in deep doo doo with the cap, and are in major need of help on the blue line. Send Smith there for a pick next year, at 50% off, I think that is doable. In so doing we don’t carry dead cap space, get a 5-6th round pick next year, and open a spot for a kid. As for Staal, I’ve been on the wagon of getting rid of that dead redwood tree for some three years already, and I can’t see anyone trading for him at all. As you stated yourself, he has embarrassed himself for years already!!!!!!!!!!!

        • They can’t trade him for a bag of pucks. He is deemed to have negative value. As far as classiness goes, the Rangers actually did this to Wade Redden. And Redden, unlike Smith, was a class act. Given his history, the problem with sending Smith to Hartford is that he doesn’t want to be there and may poison the team (whereas Redden acted as an assistant coach).

    • I don’t see them buying out Staal though out of these three he’s the worst and should be. I don’t think Shattenkirk will be bought out. I think he starts the season as a Rangers and maybe gets moved at the deadline. Perhaps he shows some of his old point producing self. I also think buying Smith out is dumb when you can either keep him as the 7th defenseman or buried in Hartford.

      • Staal is in the line up, I can’t see that he won’t.

        The problem is that there are way too many D men, some of them have to traded, bought out, waived, etc.

        • Yeah though I don’t they will dress 4 rookies. I think they’ll need two spots. One for Fox and one for Hajek. Like I said keeping Smith as the 7th and moving another could be all they need to do. I’m not a fan of buy outs unless it’s Staal

          • In the line up for sure: Staal, Skjei, DeAngelo, Fox. Hajek and Rykov SHOULD have spots, though Rykov may start in Hartford.

  • Totally agree with your cap assessment. Even with all the new talent we’re probably 2 years away from really competing. The coach can always play Staal and Smith less and Smith played forward this year, so that’s a stop gap option. Smith could have value at the trade deadline with half his salary retained. Only a year left after this one. We need to hold our nose, avoid the buyouts and just play the best players. this rebuild is moving in the right direction no point in screwing it up now.

    • i’ll add as well, if they want to open up cap space look at moving Strome, Vesey and Namestinkov. That’s just under $10 mill in cap space…maybe get a 2nd or 3rd in 2019 and if you’re lucky a 3rd in 2020 too. Get more prospects that can hopefully go to Hartford for now and assist with that turnaround. You an replace these guys with players like Joonas Donskoi or Brian Boyle for less money. I saw a story yesterday about trading for Ryan Reeves. OK. For a year no problem.

      These are bottom 6 depth guys and they are replaceable with UFA’s. This does not help the Defense Log jam, but it helps short term cap space without hurting yourself in the long run. And these guys are all UFA’s at the end of the season. Doubt we resign any of them. Move them out now for picks. Replace them with UFA’s on short term deals in July and if we are going to miss the play offs move the UFA’s you brought in. I would sign Donskoi for more than a 1 year deal if he was an option.

  • Surprising Brooks thinks they’re untradeable.
    Someone will lose out on signing Karlsson. Someone will lose out on the Trouba trade. There has to be a contender out there looking for a RD PP QB on their second unit. at the least.
    The statement by Brooks is too definitive. So matter of fact. I think that’s why it isn’t untradeable. just untradeable right now.

  • Standing by now for all the Shatty true believers to tell the world once again that this is a remarkably excellent and valuable hockey player.

  • Shatty and Staal will be here, which make trading Pionk and Skjei more plausible. I suspect there is some interest in the 2 younger defensemen. We still need to open up some slots on the defense, so somebody (or 2) need to go. Not so sure the defenseman market has heated up yet.

  • Whatever it takes to get rid of 18 22 42 44….I listened to the 4B podcast yesterday. Steve K the draft guy obliterated Gorton and Clark. But he also said he is hearing the rebuild is over…

    • If the rebuild is over, then I expect to be in the hunt for the playoffs next year. To be in the hunt, then that tells me we are signing Panarin and ridding ourselves of some of the defensive albatross’ we have. Seems to be quite a bit of work ahead if that is the case. Also putting quite a bit of faith is Kraftsov, Kakko, Chytil, Andersson and Howden as forwards. We all know the defense needs change. Fox cannot be the only new addition.

      • Whether the moves happen or not…The plan is absolutely to go for the playoffs next season. There is no tank next season

        • There was no tank this season, either. I don’t think “tank” is even in Quinn’s vocabulary as applied to hockey. Are we likely to make the playoffs this year? I’d say it’s about 50-50, but if we don’t make them, it won’t be for lack of trying. Should we act like we’re going to challenge for the cup and go nuts trying to sign free agents? Hell, no. The kids are going to develop at their own pace, no matter what we do, and that development has to remain our most important goal, at least for the upcoming season. After that, depending on what they show, it may be time to go for it all.

  • Good morning all,

    I think this year is another growing year for us. The buyouts would be nice in having the guys off the roster but the longer term cap implications will bite us. If we can package some players and picks to get rid of them I’m all for that. Vesey and Namestnikov are moveable assets to free cap space this year. Their production is easily replaced. I think we should stack our young talent in the AHL for a growth period. They can learn to win together. Look at what Toronto and Winnipeg have done by letting their young talent learn how to win in the AHL and come in ready to play in the NHL. I don’t want to go the Arizona and Edmonton way of throwing our talent to the wolves before they are ready. I think Gorton and Quinn has this team on the right path. For as young a roster we had last year we were in most games by competing hard. I hope management stays the course and does not over react. Lets clear the roster of the dead weight after this year and see what we have with all the young talent we have acquired and are grooming. Next year is the year to spend to supplement the roster.

    • Rebuilding the Hartford franchise is high on JD’s list of priorities, and we need that done sooner, rather than later. We’re banking on all of these prospects reaching their full potential, and we need to provide them with the environment to do that. I’m wondering how Smith and or Shattenkirk would deal with being in Hartford to help with that.

      • Shattenkirk has a no move clause, so he cannot be sent to Hartford. Only Smith can be sent down.

        As for the usefulness of such players in Hartford, it depends very much on attitude. When Wade Redden was sent down, he knew that he wasn’t coming back up and his career was ending. He was interested in a future in hockey beyond his playing days and embraced the chance to work with young players and get a head start on his new career. But Redden was 33 with 4 years to run on his contract when sent down while Shatty and Smith are 30 with only two years remaining. Looking for a start on their next life is likely less appealing.

    • I mentioned that a few weeks back where management asks him to retire, and give him a 10 year contract as a member of the scouting staff!!!!!!!

      • Walt, do you have any idea what the rules are? If you allow teams to get players to retire by effectively giving them an alternate way to make the same money, you are circumventing the salary cap. Surely someone has thought of this and so maybe there are rules against it. I don’t know if there actually are. Anyone?

        • Ray

          In Staal’s case he can retire with 100% of the money if he says he can’t play with one eye and longer. The teams all have insurance on players contracts, so because Marc was concussed, and legally blind in one eye due to injury, he can get all the money due him, at no cap hit to the Rangers. I believe that’s what happened to Chris Pronger, and the Flyers!!!!!!!!!

          If I’m mistaken, please correct me folks?????????

          • Incidentally, while I disagree with you and most here on the value of Staal as a player today, I actually wish that he would retire for his own sake. As you, I, and many others here know, there is a lot of life left to be had by someone’s Marc’s age and he should take care of his body. His vision issues can’t help but increase the likelihood of blindside hits and further concussions.

            IIRC, Pronger technically didn’t retire. I think he just went on LTIR for the remainder of his contract. Ditto Marian Hossa.

  • Here simple answer on the question in 2 points:

    1. if Rangers to land Panarin, even if Shatt is traded, Staal must be gonner, pure math because they’ll have to give contracts to Buch and ADA.

    2. They need to clean d-man backlog now, they can not keep some playaers in Packs forever

    Technically if Smith could be burried, Staal must go

    • Patience

      Wolfpack forevers? The Rangers currently have fifteen defensemen. Raddysh and Crawley appear to be AFL lifers, so really 13. Fox, Rykov, and Reunanen have never played in the AHL. Hajek, Day, and Lindgren have spent part of one year there – Day spending half the season in Maine and Hajek spending half the season injured. Day and Lindgren look clearly not ready. The only youngsters whose banishment to Hartford this year could qualify as forever are DeAngelo and Pionk. I don’t see DeAngelo in Hartford and if Pionk ends up there, it was not because he did not get a shot.

      • You should see DeAngelo as our #1 RD right now … and don’t expect Fox to spend any significant time down there in Hartford.

  • There is no reason to buy anyone out this season because the penalties are just too onerous. Bury Smith in Hartford for a 1.025 savings and go from there. Next season we lose Names and his 4 million stupid contract too. The year after that, we shed over 25 million in contracts. Stay the course and don’t do anything stupid like a buyout. There is enough money for Panarin if they want and to extend CK too. Just keep drafting and developing players. In two seasons, we may be ready to contend. CK and Panarin will still be young enough to be really good.

  • I 100% agree with this post. We don’t need cap space, so why buy them out? If the answer is to free up roster spots for the kids, is therea reason we can’t move Staal and Smith to Hartford? I know it doesn’t clear the cap space anymore (thanks Wade Redden) and is obviously contingent on us not making a huge free agency splash, but it could still be a viable option.

    • Easy for Brooks to write that, but not so easy to find takers for all of out overpaid, undeserving players. I am thinking we are getting some bites on some players, just not who we want to deal. We may have to “give away” Vesey on a throw in to move Smith. We may need to move AD in order to move Names. Just saying that it takes two to tango on these deals.

  • I never 100% believe what Brooks writes, it’s more like 50/50 … just flip a coin.

    I find it hard to believe that Shatty @ $3.3m won’ attract a buyer, same for Smith @$2.175 … the issue with Staal however is that the NMC gives him all the power to designate a target, so I think he would be a harder sell despite a lower price tag.

    I have no great preference for any one of the three, although in Smith’s defense he would make a great 7D/13F depth guy, he did after all look pretty good as a 4th liner and his defensive play last season was considerably better than his first season … and I could live with either Shatty or Staal on a 3rd pairing.

    The issue for me boils down to we can’t carry all three, preferably we move 2 out of the 3 or at a minimum Pionk and 1 of the three. I will consider either to be a good job of GMing.

  • It makes absolutely no sense to use the first buyout period for anyone. Ignoring 2019-2020, the cap implications over three years for buying out Staal, Smith, or Shattenkirk are negative (and actually only slightly positive for buying out Lundqvist). So buyouts can only makes sense if you really need the cap space next year. Well, if somehow the Rangers hit the trifecta on UFAs and trade targets, maybe — but no point in making unnecessary long term sacrifices for something that may not happen.

    In the case of Shattenkirk, his trade value is going to change. With each passing game, the downside of his contract becomes less onerous to would be suitors, the health considerations become less relevant, maybe he even shows more signs of being the Shattenkirk of old. Obviously the trade value can also theoretically go down, but not if there isn’t any now. One should not be quick to discard things that may have value.

    As for the logjam, let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. Who do the Rangers really have on defense? Hajek? He was not very good in Hartford and played five games In NY. For people who don’t like +/- that has primarily a sample size problem, it is crazy to go so far with such a small sample – 80 minutes of ice time. Sure, Hajek may be good this year or eventually, but we really don’t know that yet. Lindgren? Not good last year and not that highly rated. Again, he may be useful down the road, but you don’t count on him in the short turn. Rykov? Reunanen? Keane? Not guys you count on the first year. Pionk? I think we saw how that one ends. The Rangers simply do not have guys that need to be playing in the NHL. Prospects can develop in Hartford, which is designed to give young players the chance to play in unsheltered situations.

    No one is concerned about the logjam in goal where Georgiev and Shesyorkin should both be getting 50 games.

    • If you watched Hajek play those 5 games then you know he’s ready for playing time in the NHL. AHL numbers are not always the best marker for projecting NHL success — especially with Goalies (georgiev had brutal numbers down in hartford) and defenseman, but also look at all the point per game forwards that have never played a full season in the NHL. Now if the environment in Hartford had been different I might pay a little more attention to the numbers, but that would require them to play a very NHL structured system.

      • Five freaking games! Limited responsibility, no chance for the opposition to learn his weaknesses., coach careful where he uses him. Fifth on the team in penalty minutes per game behind McLeod, Lemieux, Lindgren and DeAngelo. Suggests he takes too many penalties – oh sure, it was only three penalties and maybe it is a statistical fluke, but that’s my point about sample size.

        All we learned truthfully was that he was not completely out of his depth. Is he ready to be a regular Ranger defenseman? The only honest answer is maybe.

        • Ray as I clearly stated, he’s ready for NHL play — that doesn’t mean he won’t hiccup and make mistakes or that he’s going to be a bona fide star in the NHL, it simply means he’s ready to play in the NHL and take some lumps every now and then, just like all rookies who play there. He can handle #3RD and sit every now and then — to learn. We don’t have to throw him in deep end of the pool, but he belongs in the pool.

    • Ray

      Sometime last season I posted that I saw Hajek play at Hershey, and he looked good to me. The team stunk up the Giant Center, but Hajek looked good, as did Lindgren. Now one game doesn’t make a season, but when Hajek did come up, he looked exactly like he did in that game!!!!!!

      • And I thought Hajek looked good televised at Traverse City as well. But his results were not good in Hartford and we have seen so little of him in NY. I think it is perfectly reasonable to get excited about Hajek and expect good things from him. BUT some of these exciting young players are going to disappoint us and we should not just clear out all of the old guys just so they can play. And if they are not quite ready, it is best if they learn in the AHL.

        The Rangers have defensemen like Pionk and Claesson that are not going to be great. A really good organization has better defensemen beating these guys out for jobs. If the cupboard is bare, these guys play. But if the organization is awful, these guys are not even there and you see players who are not at all ready.

        I’ll be happy if Hajek succeeds in a big way this year, but I want him to win the job, not be handed it.

  • Using cap friendly and looking at who is off of the payroll next season ( the worst of the cap hit on a buyout) it seems to me that Staai is the best possible choice for a buyout with Smith and Shattendrek next. In that order.

    Staal will cost 2.9 this season and 3.7 in 2021. Then 1.2 for the last two years.

    Smith will only cost 970k this year on a buyout and 3.145next year. 1.1 million after that for 2 years

    Shattendrek will cost $6.083 million in 2021 but only a shade over 1.4 million all other years.

    Smith makes sense too especially since Girardi ‘a 3.11 million is off the books in 2021. In reality, Staal won’t be bought out this year so Smith and Shattendrek are your only candidates.

    • Of course, if you really want to save money and give kids a chance to play, you buy out #30. Then your two best goaltenders both get significant playing time in NY.

      BUT, for the same reason that Dave argues against buying out defensemen, buying out Lundqvist is also wrong this year. Plus, Ranger brass and Rangers fan commitment to the rebuild only goes so far.

      • Hands down, Smith, Staal and Shatter are better defensemen then Pionk will ever be. Hajek showed that he may be ready to earn a regular spot on the roster, then he blew out his shoulder.

        The Rangers have some young promising Dman. But until they can prove they are ready for Primetime, it will be status quo on the Rangers blueline. Offseason buyouts are just a pipe dream.

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