The Rangers alleviated a small amount of their 2020 cap burden by dealing their longest tenured player, Marc Staal, along with a 2021 second round pick to Detroit for Future Considerations. As per the team's press release, Staal skated in 892 career games with the Rangers over 13 seasons (2007-08 - 2019-20), registering 43 goals and 145 assists for 188 points, along with a plus-46 rating and 432 penalty minutes. He ranks sixth on the franchise's all-time games played list, trailing only Harry Howell (1,160), Brian Leetch (1,129), Rod Gilbert (1,065), Ron Greschner (981), and Walt Tkaczuk (945).
It's been easy to blame Staal for much of the blue line's ills. The same with Lindy Ruff, With both parties now gone, the pressure rises on the team and the klieg lights will firmly be on GM Jeff Gorton and coach David Quinn if the D struggles again. The whipping boys from the past are no longer in New York, so someone else will need to be the focus if the things go pear shaped. I actually thought Staal, after he was benched, had a fairly solid campaign and much of the slings and arrows that went his way this year were unfounded. I provided my 2019-20 season's view on him in this blog
New York entered this offseason with three possible buyout or trade candidates in Staal, Brendan Smith and Henrik Lundqvist. Staal, drafted in the first round in 2005, was slated to make $5.7 million this season on the last year of the six-year, $34.2 millon extension he signed that included a no-movement but modified no-trade clause. While Staal's cap hit was $5.7 million, his actual salary for the 2020-21 season was the lowest of his contract, at $3.2 million, making him attractive to a team looking to get to the salary floor but wanting to save cash.
Staal was quite possibly heading for a buyout, paving the way for him to agree to the deal. In moving Staal without retaining salary, New York now has just about $20 million in cap space with eight forwards, four blueliners, and two goaltenders currently under contract. Just because Staal was moved doesn't mean the Blueshirts are done, as Smith could be bought out, though with this move, I expect to possibly be a fourth line winger again next year or rotate between the back line and forward spot. But buying Lundqvist, which would save $3 million on the cap, the majority of that total going to re-sign Alexandar Georgiev, still looks like a very viable option.
After trading a second-round pick next season, the Blueshirts, who have the first and 22nd picks in this year's entry draft, have eight picks remaining in 2020-21 (six of their own, plus Buffalo’s third and Ottawa’s fourth-rounders). By acquiring New York's second-round selection, Detroit, who are rebuilding, has six picks in the first three rounds in both the 2020 and 2021 drafts. The Red Wings could buy Staal out or opt to keep him for the year and try to acquire a pick at the deadline for a team looking for a veteran d-man for the stretch run and playoffs.
For the Rangers, freeing up salary creates options. First, this could pave the way for a Tony DeAngelo extension. Second, the same for Ryan Strome. Third, it provides the team a bit more time to decide what to do or how to handle Lundqvist, if a buyout is forthcoming. Fourth, the cap room might be used on a top pair left-defenseman, with the name Torey Krug having been heard as a possibility. If not, New York might explore the market for a second line center on a short term deal as they decide what to do with Strome and if Filip Chytil will be a center or winger and if he can fill that spot in the future. Fifth, New York might package their 22nd pick and an asset, maybe TdA or other, to move up in the first round or for another asset, either a LHD or center.
Fare Thee Well, Marc, You were a warrior and wore the red, white and blue jersey with pride.