Defense

Can a kid force Marc Staal out of the Rangers lineup?

One of the more interesting battles heading into camp is that of left defense. It’s safe to say that Brady Skjei will get the 1LD minutes, likely with Jacob Trouba. After that, we have no idea how the rest of the lineup will shake out. Brendan Smith, who was pretty serviceable as a bottom-four defenseman, is in the mix, as is Marc Staal as the veterans. Kids Libor Hajek (who looked good in 5 NHL games), Yegor Rykov, and Ryan Lindgren also look like they are in the mix.

Let’s assume for a second that Skjei and Staal are locks, and the battle is really between Smith, Hajek, Rykov, and Lindgren for the final spot and 7D role. Let’s also assume that there is no way a kid is going to get the 7D spot. That basically means Hajek, Rykov, and Lindgren are battling for 3LD, while Smith is penciled in as the 7D. I’m not sure how that works with the cap, but humor me.

But what if all three of Hajek, Rykov, and Lindgren show they belong in the NHL? I doubt it would happen to start the season, but what about later on? It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Staal hasn’t been good in almost five years now, even to the point where Smith is better than him. Would David Quinn do the unthinkable – scratch Staal in favor of the kids?

This isn’t something I expect to happen right away, so this is more of a midseason hypothetical than an October hypothetical. Staal’s no-movement clause certainly complicates things, as does his basically unmoveable contract cap hit/dollar amount. He’s going to be with the Blueshirts, it’s just a matter of if he plays or not.

In the end, this is not likely to happen. Too many things need to happen for Staal to be forced out of the lineup, and it’s not like the Rangers are going to rush their prospects this season, another (likely) out of the playoffs year. Injuries certainly change things, but that is likely the only thing that can happen to force Staal out of the lineup.

I’m oddly ok with this, actually. This is a rebuilding year for the Rangers, so there is no immediate need to be good. Staal can eat minutes, albeit poorly, while prospects develop in Hartford and/or in lesser roles with the Rangers. This isn’t the year to compete. Next year and beyond is.

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33 Comments

    1. To answer that question, “can a kid force Staal out of the lineup?” I sure hope so. I think if the staff were to scratch Staal for a couple straight weeks, I bet he would be a little more willing to waive that NMC he has carved in stone into his contract.
      It’s nothing personal, Staal has been a consummate professional in his time on Broadway but his best days are behind him. Hasn’t been the same since his brother Eric gave him that concussion.

  1. Staal will stay in the lineup with the 3rd pair. DQ is not ready to move a kid into his role yet. By game 15, look for Staal to start some games in the press box though.

  2. Staal should really retire. I’d be fine sitting him for the younger kids. The kids need to play.

    1. Unfortunately there’s 8.2 millions reasons he shouldn’t retire right now (assuming Signing Bonus paid in July, otherwise $1M reasons).
      Even though it doesn’t help the team now, he has no reason to walk away from that money. His play declined due to injuries suffered in services of the team. Dude deserves his money.

  3. The defense will likely improve simply by sheltering Staal’s TOI. The first pair minutes with Pionk last season was borderline absurd. Staal MAY be acceptable as a third pairing guy with 14 or so minutes per night against opposing bottom six forwards. I think Skeij will be better with a high skilled partner like Trouba. I think the d will be much better this season. I expect ADA to be much improved too. We going to surprise some people.

    1. Spot on. I expect Staal to be 3rd pair at least for a while. I expect Skjei to be a much better player with Trouba as a partner if he is paired with him. I expect ADA to continue to improve as his confidence and experience grow. I think the defense corps will be much better than people might expect and so they will surprise people.

      The issues will be at center if Chytil, Andersson and Howden are played there regularly, and on the wings if young Kravstov and Kakko have growing pains. But, young players trying to make it are the kinds of issues we want to have instead of watching fading players.

  4. I have been saying for 3 years they should sit him and it would force him to want to be traded. In my 55+ years of following hockey I know these players. They want to PLAY!

  5. One of the problems is that Rykov has an out in his contract allowing him to go back to the KHL. I don’t think he’s going to be comfortable sitting if his play is demonstrably superior to Staal’s. Don’t get me wrong, I really respect Staal for how he’s performed in the past, and what he’s had to go through with the injuries. Unfortunately, age and those injuries have left him a shell of the defenseman he once was.

    1. I believe Rykov’s out clause does not take until next season. He came over with the understanding this year may be a year with the Pack.

    2. Nothing against Staal or anyone else, but the best players must play. If that is Staal, so be it, but don’t play anyone because they might leave for another league. Do we really want that loser mentality on the team?

  6. From both a cap and performance standpoint, no way should BSmith be rostered to start the season.

    That Said, much of the decision will be based on how JD’s idea’s to development of the kids changes the direction of how the coaching staff manages the kids. Keep in mind that our 2RD and 3RD are both still young and sometimes putting young pairs out there consistently could have a detrimental effect, both on them and the added pressure to our top pair.
    No one should see any issues with all three of the young kids playing 35-50 games this season, shuttling between the Pack and MSG….they are all young and need to develop further. And if this is going to be another “Build” year we need to keep that as the focus.

    Marc Staal will play to begin the season as the Vet Presence, but as the year goes on and the kids grow (as we hope they will) Staal should be watching from upstairs at least 10-15 games during the season if not more during the final months.

  7. With DQ as the coach and not AV, there’s a chance a kid can force Stall into 3rd pair minutes or the press box. But the kid would have to earn it.

  8. I don’t share the board’s hyperbolic criticism of Staal. But we do have a healthy pool of D men on the left side now. Liked Hajek and Lindgren’s performance last year and eager to see Rykov. Not so charitable on Smith; he hurts more than helps. The guy plays 15 minutes a night and can’t go a single game without putting us a man down! If we go 7D – let’s use a prospect. Time to jump in the pool with our future.

    1. Smith can also play on the 4th line … and pretty well I might add. That versatility alone makes him more valuable in the end than Staal.

      1. I think everyone is too quick to send /Smith to Hartford to save cap room. As you point out, he can play D and up front. Rather than have a 700K seventh defenseman and a 700K 13th forward, Smith can fill both roles and there is a cap savings of 300K.

        I also think people don’t realize how little the Rangers may start the season with on the left side. Lindgren looked nowhere near ready in his trial last year and Rykov almost certainly needs to start in Hartford. And people like Keane, Day etc don’t appear ready either. All the Rangers really have is Skjei, Staal, Smith and Hajek – and frankly Hajek was shaky last year in Hartford so the evidence in his favor is a meager five games. Hopefully Hajek will make the team, but in any case the Rangers will need Staal or Smith and maybe both.

        I think two things are certain about the coming Ranger team. The opening day lineup will be a team that is not good enough to make the playoffs. The team will get better as the season progresses.

        1. Smith isn’t going down, that’s just some “thought” a so-called blogger writer had that went viral. Not suggesting it can’t happen, but I don’t believe that’s the predisposition of the FO and Coaching staff, not in the least.

          1. I agree. I believe that, assuming Hajek seems reasonably competent, the Rangers will start with the obvious seven guys. If Hajek needs more seasoning, we might see somebody like Claesson signed to fill out the squad. Everyone else should begin in Hartford.

            NOW, as the season progresses, if some of the Hartford kids make compelling arguments for being in NY, the thinking may change. Management will cross that bridge when they come to it.

            But for now, Staal and Smith will be on the team because (A) they re two of the 7 best dmen the Rangers have and (B) Fox and DeAngelo and the rookie forwards can better learn the NHL game playing alongside people who know the ropes.

  9. Let’s be honest here, barring some unforeseen event Staal will likely start off the season as the 2LD — after that, who knows. It will depend on the play of the youngsters, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rykov and Lindgren down on the farm to start the year.

    Sure, DQ is not AV … but he still has some of that vet bias and there’s no perceived “rush” to get Rykov or Lindgren into the lineup — maybe even Hajek. It’s already been mentioned but it does bear repeating, there’s no real good reason to keep one of the kids up to play the 7D. So no, I won’t be stunned if the Rangers start off the year playing the vets over the youngsters.

    PS: Staal should retire, if not this year then next summer … he’s just holding on, his eye and the increased speed of the game have made him something of a liability.

    1. You may be right and he might be 2D instead of 3D. Heck it is possible that Smith will be 3D and there will be no kids on the left side to start the season. I hope for Fox playing in the NHL right away, and Hajek too, but neither is a certainty.

    2. Your starting to sound like me with this post Tanto!!!!!!

      Marc should retire as a player who can’t perform due to limited vision, this way he gets on the LTIR, and gets all monies due, with us not getting the cap hit!!!!!!!!

    3. Oh he will be the 2LD. I don’t trust DQ not to hold on TIGHT to that quality of veteran leadership that so many coaches seem to do … regardless of performance. 😉 We can dream though, we can dream.

  10. I just read an interview with Jeff Gorton that took place about 30 minutes ago. Here is the part that refers to their restricted free agents. JG doesn’t think he will have to make any moves to sign DeAngelo and Lemieux:

    USAT: Where does the salary cap stand right now? You still have two unsigned restricted free agents. Do you feel like another move needs to be made to create enough room to get Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux under contract?

    JG: I don’t think so. I think that we can sign those guys now, and we’re attempting to do so. Hopefully, we’ll get that done in the next couple of weeks here and they’ll be ready to go in camp.

    USAT: Are both players looking for something beyond the one-year, qualifying offers?

    JG: I never like to get into my discussions with the agents and the players. I like to keep that as private as possible, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. But listen, they’re both good players. They’re valuable to the organization and what we’re doing. We like them both a lot, on and off the ice. We’re trying to get them signed and get them in the best deals for the Rangers right now, and for the future. We’ll figure that out as soon as possible.

    USAT: But you’re saying you do not think another move — trade or otherwise — is necessary to create more wiggle room?

    JG: No, not right now. Not in order to sign them. I think we can sign them right now and feel comfortable with how it fits going forward.

    USAT: But in terms of being cap compliant once opening night comes on Oct. 3?

    JG: Obviously, when opening day comes, we have to be at the cap number — and we will be. But I think in terms of signing these players, there’s nothing stopping us from signing them.

    1. Lemieux will get a minuscule raise, DeAngelo more but still somewhat small. Both will probably be 1 year. Before they get any real raise they’ll have to play a WHOLE season with the team. At least that how I think JG is thinking, so ZERO issues with the cap … they’ll be just fine once they send down Belesky and ? (whomever).

      1. I actually don’t see the point of giving DeAngelo a one year contract for more than $1M. I’d sign him for 2 years at $1.6M per (I think they can make that work) to sidestep a bigger raise next year when he is arbitration eligible, but if you can’t get two years, the QO should be fine.

    2. Like I’ve said all along, the cap is not an issue this year, next year, and the year after that. Even with signing CK to $7M per.

      The fans get nuts about the cap, but Gorton is comfortable with where they are.

    1. now that’s a sad thought!!!!!!!!!

      Whatever happened to earning your time on the ice?????????

      1. “earning your time on the ice” unfortnately to a nmber of NHL old school guys means what you have done over your career rather than what you bring to the table presently.

      2. It does not apply as it relates to Staal. He’s by far and away the worst, and yet, he’s still here, and playing.

  11. Unlike you I have great displeasure seeing Staal in the lineup. Do you know what Brady Skjei learned from Marc last season? That the organization is okay with mediocre play. I swear Skjei regressed last season. If upper management thinks Marc can be a positive influence, ask him to consider retiring, make him defensive bench coach, guaranteeing him the money he is owed on his contract. Have Ruff help with the Maine Mariners, I’m sure the equipment manager and laundry services can use the help!!

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