It’s not often that a team can find exactly what they’re looking for on the trade market, but that’s precisely what the New York Rangers managed to do on Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers acquired arguably the biggest fish in the availability pond ahead of the 2016 trade deadline, center Eric Staal, from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward prospect Aleksi Saarela and two 2nd round draft picks.
The deal was an emotionally difficult, yet entirely necessary, transaction for the young and rebuilding Hurricanes, as I wrote about earlier in the week. The organization says goodbye to their long-serving captain, but adds three key assets that could pay huge dividends for the team in the future.
For the Rangers, however, the trade is a bold power move that’s all about the present.
New York, who currently sits in second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 36-20-6, has big aspirations about making a run at the Stanley Cup this season. But, in order to do so, the team needed to shore up some of the issues that it was facing: a 20th-ranked Corsi For%, a 22nd-ranked shots-per-game, and a 22nd-ranked powerplay success rate.
The 31 year-old former 100-point scorer and Stanley Cup champion isn’t quite the same player that he was during his prime years in Carolina, but he’s still exactly what the doctor ordered for the Rangers. Not only does he immediately become one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in New York, but he also brings with him something that no other forward on the team currently has: the experience of actually winning it all in the playoffs.
Additionally, Staal also brings some badly-needed possession capabilities to the squad. He has a 56.9 CF% on the season thus far, some of the best possession numbers of any forward in the entire league. That sort of increased stability is going to be essential for the team come playoff time.
With one of the best goaltenders in the league in Henrik Lundqvist, an experienced defensive core and a deep forward ranks, the addition of Staal could be the last piece to the puzzle that the Rangers need to make some serious noise this postseason.