News broke late Saturday night that the Detroit Red Wings had acquired veteran defenseman Marc Staal and a draft pick from the New York Rangers for future considerations.
Staal has one year left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.7 million. With Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley not returning to the team, Staal becomes the eldest member of the Red Wings’ defense at 33 years old. For taking on his contract, the Red Wings acquired a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, which now gives them three 2021 second-rounders.
We’ve been tossing around the notion of general manager Steve Yzerman wielding the Red Wings’ cap space as means to acquire future assets. This is the first move where he did just that. The $5.7 million isn’t egregious, especially with a second-round pick attached.
Adding a third second-round pick in the 2021 draft means the Red Wings are slated to hold at least three second-round picks in three straight drafts, going back to the 2019 draft. Given that 30 to 40 percent of players selected in the second round become NHL players, the Red Wings are playing the percentages and should end up with more than a couple of solid players because of it. Simply put: the draft pick is the real star of this deal.
As for Staal, Eric and Jordan’s brother is a veteran of 892 regular season games in the NHL, recording 188 points along the way. He has been a big part of Rangers’ defense since the 2007-08 season, including their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. He’s a bottom-pairing defenseman at this point in his career though, and he routinely posts poor possession stats.
Staal’s contract contained a no-movement clause that he had to waive in order for the trade to go through. Because of this and the Red Wings’ place in the league, it’s reasonable to wonder whether or not a buyout is in the works. The Carolina Hurricanes made a similar move last year when they acquired a first round pick and Patrick Marleau from the Toronto Maple Leafs and then bought him out.
If the Red Wings did exercise a buyout – now that the buyout window is open – it would save them $2.1 million against the cap this year. They would incur a $1.07 million buyout penalty during the 2021-22 season. While there’s no clear sign that the Red Wings intend to buy Staal out of his contract, this is a situation worth monitoring over the next few days.
Role With the Red Wings?
Should Staal spend the 2020-21 season with the Red Wings, he immediately fills a spot vacated by Daley and Ericsson. He could play on one of the team’s penalty-kill units while playing minimal minutes at 5-on-5 (theoretically.)
But the real value of adding Staal is the veteran savvy he would bring to the defensive unit. This is a group that lacks big-game experience and he certainly has plenty of that. With just one year left on his deal, the Red Wings get these benefits without committing too much to the player.
Come the 2021 trade deadline, Staal also fits the mold of the “depth, veteran defenseman” that contending teams often covet. The Red Wings could dangle Staal and gather another draft pick to join the 2021 second-rounder – not bad when you consider Detroit gave up virtually nothing to get this player.
One other thing to note is that Staal staying likely removes the Red Wings from the Torey Krug sweepstakes. There are only so many spots available on the blue line, and guys like Moritz Seider and Gustav Lindstrom are knocking on the door.
This was the first bit of real news surrounding the Red Wings since they locked in the fourth overall pick of the 2020 draft. With chatter across the NHL starting to pick up, there’s no doubt that more news could be just around the corner.
Should Staal be bought out of his deal by the Red Wings, the penalty for doing so isn’t that bad, and they received a second-round pick for their troubles. If he stays in Detroit and plays out the season, he’ll be a good mentor for a group that needs them, and Yzerman should still be able to get a second asset out of him. It’s a win-win situation, honestly.
This deal also signals that Yzerman is open for business, so expect more trade chatter as the draft and offseason draw nearer. Fans should expect another move or two like this before next season begins.