Where there’s smoke, there tends to be a fire.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger as well as Elliot Friedman have all been talking about a trade that would send Eric Staal to the Rangers. The captain of the Hurricanes is in the last year of a seven year contract that carries a cap hit of $8.25 million, and it’s been rumored for a while that he’s on his way out.
This is a move that has Glen Sather written all over it. While he’s not in charge anymore, he still has influence in the organization and it seems more and more likely that Eric Staal will be a Ranger by Monday. The Rangers seem to be prepared to make one more run at the Cup with this group of guys, and acquiring Staal would indicate that’s exactly their plans.
However, would this be the right move for the Rangers?
Let’s start off by clearing this up; Staal is not a bad or overrated player. He’s a guy with a proven track record of offensive production, including seven straight 70+ point seasons, which included a 45 goal, 100 point season.
His numbers don’t look good this year (16-23-39 in 62 games), but it’s somewhat deceiving, kind of like how Rick Nash’s numbers are deceiving. Staal has had bad luck (shooting 4% below career average) and the lack of talent around him make for deceptively low production.
And for all of you that love to point out playoff production, Staal has done that too. When the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, Staal scored nine goals with 19 assists, totaling 28 points in 25 games. In 2009 when the Canes went to the Eastern Conference Finals, Staal scored 10 goals and 15 points in 18 games. That gives him 43 points (19-24-43) in 43 playoff games.
However, he currently has the second highest Corsi for% of his entire career (56.56%), and that number is very, very impressive. He’s driving possession and creating chances at the same rate as he always has been, but hasn’t gotten the bounces or help from his teammates. If you put him on a line with Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider, I have no doubt that his scoring will pick up.
However, Eric Staal is going to cost A LOT. Trading their captain means that the Hurricanes, who sit just two points out of a playoff spot, are essentially giving up on their season and moving on from the face of their franchise. To do that, they’ll need a good package to convince them.
Andrew Ladd was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks last night, and he got Winnipeg a first round pick in 2016, a conditional third round pick in 2018 (If Chicago wins the Cup), and a high-end prospect in Marko Dano. Eric Staal will require a similar return.
Translating that to the Rangers terms, that would mean giving away yet another first round pick and someone like Pavel Buchnevich or Brady Skjei. Are you willing to give up either of them? Because I’m not.
If the Rangers were winning championships like the Blackhawks, then go right ahead and send all the draft picks away. But they haven’t won a Cup since 1994, and their strategy of shipping out first rounders has not paid dividends yet. The team also has an extremely thin prospect pool, so trading away Buchnevich or Skjei would widdle away at that even further.
There is one route they could go though. The Hurricanes are in need of goaltending depth, which is an area the Rangers have a plethora of prospects. Mackenzie Skapski, Brandon Halverson, Igor Shestyorkin and the surprising rise of Adam Huska has given the Blueshirts a bright future between the pipes. They could probably trade away Halverson, since Shestyorkin looks to be the future between the pipes, and that would be a prospect they could afford to ship away.
But the question remains with the draft picks. Unless Jeff Gorton made another deal at the deadline, like shipping out Keith Yandle or another defenseman, then they don’t have a draft pick to send away. At some point, you need to start creating depth through the draft or else there is no future.
The Hurricanes could sweeten the pot a big by including an affordable young player that could factor into the Rangers’ future plans, like young center Viktor Rask, who is an upcoming RFA who currently makes $680k.
If the Hurricanes were interested in acquiring a roster player, like Chris Kreider, or would be fine with a goalie prospect, a mid-tier prospect (think Ryan Tambellini or Brad Morrison) and maybe a third round pick, I say go for it.
The Rangers can refill their prospect pool through undrafted free agents (read this article by Blueseat Blogs on the topic) and get more mid-tier prospects, they have a ton of goalie prospects so trading one would be okay, and a third round pick isn’t too much to give up. The Hurricanes would have to eat a significant portion of Staal’s contract for this to work out (unless the Rangers place Rick Nash on LTIR, read more on that here).
The problem is, I don’t think the Hurricanes want to walk away with anything less than a first rounder. They’re getting close to completing their rebuild, and the more high picks they have, the better it is for them. At that price, or the same price as Andrew Ladd, the Rangers simply cannot afford to make that trade.
Also, Eric Staal is a center and has rarely played wing in his career. But the Rangers would be shifting him to the wing because they already have Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes all playing well at that position already. If they want to use Staal at wing, it doesn’t make much sense. If that’s the case, then just go out and get Radim Vrbata from Vancouver or Staal’s teammate, Kris Versteeg. Both are cheaper, great depth wingers and they fit the Rangers needs better.
In conclusion, passing up on Eric Staal and his proven record is hard to do. But when you think about the cost it would take to acquire someone who will almost definitely leave after this season, it becomes quite clear why the Rangers should instead search for more affordable yet still effective options.
But with all of the rumors flying around, don’t be surprised if Eric Staal is wearing blue by Monday morning.