After a lackluster season with a huge cap hit, is it worth it for the New York Rangers to buyout Marc Staal‘s contract?
The New York Rangers are making noise this offseason. They have the second overall pick, signed Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shestyorkin to entry-level contracts, and just acquired Adam Fox from the Carolina Hurricanes. Things are looking up in this rebuild.
The Blueshirts are adding a lot of depth and youth to their roster. A couple of weeks ago I stressed that the Rangers need to balance their roster, explaining how the offense improving should not distract from the need for defense. With the acquisition of Fox, it sure looks Rangers GM Jeff Gorton seems to agree.
Let’s look at the Rangers defense, shall we? There is a clear youth movement going on.
Only four of rostered defensemen are over the age of 25. Restricted free agents include Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo and Fredrick Claesson. Some entry-level contracts that are still good for a while are Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren and the recently acquired Fox. Then, of course, there’s K’Andre Miller, who is in development and will join the Rangers in the next coming seasons.
Of course, there are some veterans on the roster, but the one vet of much interest this offseason is Marc Staal.
The 32-year-old defenseman has the third biggest cap hit on the team behind Kevin Shattenkirk and Henrik Lundqvist. Staal agreed to this new deal in the 2015 season, which gives him a $5.7 million cap hit and a full no-move clause. This contract expires on July 1, 2021. He will be 34-years-old when that time comes.
So, with the new youth movement being given more emphasis in this rebuild, is it time that the Rangers buyout this contract that is handicapping them?
Let’s be honest, Staal is not the player he once was. He finished the season with 13 points and a -9 rating. Looking at a recent Blueshirt Banter piece, Staal showcased a CF% of 43.15%, the worst of the defensemen. Staal also finished low with a Rel CF% of -3.97, a GF% of 42.45%, a Rel GF% of -5.02, an xGF% of 45.61 and a Rel xGF% of -1.77.
It wouldn’t be smart to push the development of the young defensemen any quicker than necessary; however, at this point, we must ask whether or not it’s worth keeping Staal on the roster.
Is keeping Staal on the roster denying a young up-and-coming defenseman some playing time?
If the answer to that question is yes, then it might be time to buyout his contract. However, that comes with maybe an even harder follow up question. Do the Rangers buy him out or just eat it for the next two years?
Yes, the Rangers would clear up some cap space, and free up a spot on the roster for one of their key future pieces. However, they can still end up paying Staal for a few seasons and it still counts against the cap.
Let’s take a look at when they previously bought out a defenseman, Dan Girardi.
Girardi signed an extension in 2014. The contract was for six years and $5.5 million per year. After the third year, the Rangers bought out his contract. If Girardi was still on the roster, he would now be entering his contract year. Instead, the Rangers are paying him until 2023. Next year, it will be a cap hit of $3,611,111. After next year, the Rangers will have a cap hit of $1,111,111 going towards Girardi for another three years.
Already having one buyout counting against them might force Gorton to keep Staal on the roster. What’s worse than paying one player that’s not on your roster? Paying two.
Gorton’s predecessor, Glen Sather, left him with this contract and Girardi’s just before handing him control. Gorton has to weigh the options. Do you buyout Staal to make room for a young defenseman and more cap space or do you just eat those final two years of his contract in order to avoid paying him longer than necessary?
If Gorton goes with the latter option, Staal needs to step his game up and be a good leader for the youngsters so he can pass the torch to them when he’s gone.