In case you missed it, news broke over the weekend that Marc Staal had a surgical procedure on his ankle following an infection. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks, meaning he may be out longer than the two weeks. The Rangers are not expected to make a recall while he is out, so while the club is obviously hopeful he could return, infections are tricky and he could be out longer than the team anticipates.
The first thought that popped into my head was the Marian Hossa situation in Arizona. Hossa “retired” from the NHL due to a skin disorder, sitting out the 2017-2018 season and placed on LTIR by the Chicago Blackhawks. He was later traded to Arizona, where he is still on LTIR, but no longer playing in the NHL. His retirement paperworks was never submitted, so there is no salary cap recapture penalty, and Hossa still gets his $1 million a year for this year and next until his contract runs out.
This is something Josh Khalfin (private account) theorized as well. In some kind of odd conspiracy theory, Staal’s ankle “never heals” and the Rangers put him on LTIR to get some cap relief and roster space. Staal still gets his salary this year and next. Both parties win, especially as Staal is likely to spend more and more time as a healthy scratch this year and next.
That kind of maneuver opens more than just cap relief and roster space too. It weaponizes cap space for the Rangers in trades. Jeff Gorton has only really capitalized on excess cap space once before by taking on Matt Beleskey in the Rick Nash trade though, so I don’t think this is likely.
The other option, which is a little far fetched, is that Staal retires if he doesn’t want to do the LTIR ploy. In this very unlikely scenario, it’s likely done after July 1 when he collects his $1 million bonus.
It’s worth noting that all of this is a conspiracy theory and extremely unlikely to happen. The most likely end to Staal’s ankle infection is a healthy Staal back in the lineup before 2019 is over. But still, there is precedent in the NHL for something like this to balloon.