Three NHL captains have been traded leading up to the 2016 NHL trade deadline — Monday, 3:00pm (EST). The New York Rangers were rumored to have interest in a couple of rental players, two captains, who would be made available on the trade market by their respective clubs.
The Rangers and general manager Jeff Gorton then pulled the trigger on Sunday February 28, as the organization officially announced New York had acquired center Eric Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two second-round draft-picks (2016, 2017) and prospect Aleksi Saarela.
For @NHLCanes Aleksi Saarela is a very good prospect. High IQ, makes plays. Quick & plays & executes at high pace. Versatile. Competes.
— Craig Button (@CraigJButton) February 28, 2016
While the Garden Faithful may not be thrilled with the recent transaction made by New York’s front office, here’s why the Rangers needed to add Eric Staal to their lineup.
‘Staal The Right Reasons’
It’s become a broken record, but the Rangers’ window to realistically hoist Lord Stanley within the next two seasons is on the verge of a decline. With New York’s leaders and all-star caliber players such as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, team captain Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan etc. all still in their prime, but on the start of a potential decline too, New York needs to go all-in and at least try to win its fifth Stanley Cup — while the opportunity still presents itself for Gorton and company.
You may be scratching your head and asking, Why acquire Eric Staal then?
The answer…how the trade market has panned out over the past week — one aspect of how the business functions.
It's also my understanding, though not official by any means, CAR is expected to retain as much as 50 per cent of Staal's expiring contract.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 28, 2016
A club such as the Chicago Blackhawks, a top contender from the Western Conference, have been one of the most active teams leading up to the trade deadline. Even when you thought they wouldn’t have the ability due to “salary-cap restrictions” to land a top notch player like former Winnipeg Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd — the Hawks did in fact re-acquire Ladd. And, now appear to be the favorites to represent the West in the Cup Finals, again.
By the way, Chicago has won three Stanley Cups in the past five seasons, but Hawks’ GM Stan Bowman knows exactly what’s at stake for his club — another shot at the Cup and erasing any questions if the Blackhawks should be labeled as a dynasty.
Rangers’ competitors and potential ones for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Pittsburgh Penguins & Florida Panthers) have made key transactions to improve their rosters, whether it was a big name or a depth player…
Given what’s mentioned above — the Blueshirts had no choice but to make a trade in order to improve their team, compete at higher level and better their playoff hopes this spring… by going all-in with the best available options on the market. At the moment, that just so happened to be Staal, Marc Staal’s brother.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 28, 2016
Speaking of big-named players or depth guys — Staal brings both commodities to the Rangers’ lineup. Yes, the center’s numbers have declined over the past two seasons, but there’s hope.
Insert the Thunder Bay, Ontario native into the Blueshirts’ top six-to-nine forwards and things are looking up for not only Staal, but for New York too. The six-foot-four center adds not only size and talent down the middle of the ice for the Rangers, but playoff experience — Stanley Cup experience for that matter.
It may seem like a distant memory, but this Staal brother has spent a summer carrying around Lord Stanley and is itching to get back into the postseason for another shot at holding it high above his head, again. Expect Staal to be revived on Broadway, especially with Madison Square Garden’s one of a kind atmosphere.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) February 28, 2016
This hockey enthusiast strongly believes the former Hurricanes’ captain was in need of a new home and change of pace compared to Raleigh, North Carolina. And, what better city to do so than in the Big Apple, right? When a player moves from a club that’s in a rebuilding phase to a legitimate Cup contender — I’d imagine the adrenaline rush is pretty drastic…
Yes, the Rangers currently sit in second place for the Eastern Conference but the Blueshirts have experienced their ups and downs in 2016, plus on the offensive side of the puck. Keep in mind, if the playoffs started today the Rangers would face-off against the other New York team, the Islanders.
I’d say NYR’s lineup looks better against a deeper and more physical Islanders’ squad with Eric Staal donning the red, white and blue. And, the Rangers struggled mightily in the face-off dot last postseason — Staal should improve those percentages come April, and that could be one of the difference makers in winning or losing a game seven, at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
The Rangers needed to make a headline trade for a player such as Eric Staal to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive going forward in 2016, and for all the right reasons…