Let me start by asking this question, who do you think is more likely to finish their contract with the New York Rangers: Marc Staal or Henrik Lundqvist? Until today, almost everyone would’ve said Lundqvist but it’s become obvious that it will be Staal to play out his entire deal with the Rangers. Simply put, the emergence of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev has changed the course for these two veterans.
Marc the Mentor
Marc Staal has been staple on defense for 13 seasons and vital for the Rangers young blue-line today. He has been a steadying presence for a host of greenhorns over the last 2 years including Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox. While it is true he is not the #1 shutdown defender he used to be, Staal’s role as the longest tenured Ranger not named Lundqvist (15 seasons) has been a calming influence to the rookies and a safety valve for David Quinn.
“We missed him,” Quinn said. “Since I’ve been here, he’s [recently] been playing very good hockey. We don’t have guys that do what he does consistently, with his size and his physicality. His puck movement has been really good. He’s been really good for us and we missed him.”DQ on Staal after missing time with the Flu – NYPOST
This season Staal has averaged 17:39 of ice time in 52 games. That is almost 3 minutes less than his career average of 20:37 and a far cry from the 25:44 he recorded in his 4th year as a pro in 2010-11. He has been relegated as a third pair defender, but he unlike Lundqvist has adapted to the new role. Plus there is simply no one ready to take his place.
One Final Year
The 33 year old Staal like Lundqvist has one year remaining on his deal next season. When it concludes, he will be a UFA and very likely to be traded at the deadline for picks and/or prospects. Sadly, Henrik Lundqvist is more likely to be traded or bought out at the conclusion of this season (especially if the NHL allows unpenalized buyouts coming out of this postponement). That means Staal will have outlasted the King, which is something no one could have predicted.
So why is Staal going to outlast the King? The facts are both K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist are not ready to make the leap to the NHL next season. Even if Miller were to magically shed all his bad defensive habits overnight, that would only remove Brendan Smith from the left side. And if Nils Lundkvist proves ready, which is more probable, that would move DeAngelo or Fox over to the left and still only impact Smith. Only the belief that both rookies can make the lineup would signal the end of Staal’s tenure with the Rangers and obviously that’s not happening.