Editor's note: This piece was written before the Staal extension was announced on Sunday. The new contract is reportedly worth $34.2 million ($5.7 million per season) over six years.
The New York Rangers and defenseman Marc Staal are nearing a new deal that would see the 6-foot-4 defenseman sign on for six more seasons in the Big Apple.
According to a report from Larry Brooks of the New York Post, a “well-placed source” has told Brooks there has been positive talks between the two sides and that the Rangers and unrestricted free agent-to-be Staal are inching ever closer to signing on the dotted line.
The believed value of the deal is anywhere from $5.6 to $5.9 million per season, which would make the contract very similar to the six-year, $33 million contract that fellow Ranger defesenman, Dan Girardi, signed in February. Signing Staal to a long-term deal was seen as a top priority for the Rangers, and getting him under contract is a great move.
If the contract is signed anywhere in the reported dollar range it will make Staal the highest paid blueliner on the Rangers, and rightfully so.
Staal has been outstanding for the Rangers in 2014-15. While he’s not necessarily putting up the most incredible possession numbers, his work against some of the toughest opposition in the NHL is more than admirable. At 28, he’s the type of top-flight defenseman that gives the Rangers the ability to ice a true top defenseman. Though Staal may not get the same praise heaped upon him as other blueliners, he plays a shutdown role and takes on big, tough minutes and performs better than most defensemen in the league would be able to.
Another aspect that makes Staal so important is his ability to play up and down the lineup. This season alone, he has spent at least 200 5-on-5 minutes alongside each of Girardi, Dan Boyle, and Kevin Klein. Being able to utilize Staal according to the makeup of the roster on any given night is a testament to his competence in playing whichever role is needed of him. Most commonly, however, Staal is asked to be a shutdown guy.
Girardi, who plays a similar shutdown role, actually starts fewer of his shifts in the defensive zone than does Staal, and all the while playing fewer 5-on-5 minutes. It’s in this that you can see Staal’s value to the Rangers. Not only does he start more than 35 percent of his total shifts in the defensive zone, of the three defenseman that start more than 30 percent of their shifts in the Rangers zone – Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are the two others – he’s the only one posting a Corsi For percentage above 47.5 percent. He’s also the only one who posts positive scoring chance numbers.
Though Staal has been on the ice for more scoring chances against than all Rangers defensemen save Girardi, he has actually been on the ice for two more Rangers scoring chances for than he has been scoring chances against. And no Rangers defenseman, not even those who start the majority of their shifts in the offensive zone, has created more individual scoring chances than Staal.
The signing, whenever it becomes official, will be a great one for the New York Rangers and their fanbase. It signals that the team will keep one of the best defensemen they have on the roster, and that he’ll be suiting up for the Blueshirts for years to come.