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Extending Marc Staal Is A Big Win For The Rangers

Sean Hartnett

Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for WFAN.com since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.

Following their 5-2 nationally-televised victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers formally announced that defenseman Marc Staal has agreed to terms on a contract extension.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Staal will earn an average of $5.7 million per season through the 2020-21 season. The extension will kick in following this season.

This is very, very good business for the Rangers. Since training camp, Staal has been eager to agree a long-term extension. There was never any doubt of him penning a new deal. It was just a matter of when.

“Marc has been one of the cornerstones of our team since he arrived in New York,” Rangers general manager Glen Sather said via a team release. “His commitment and perseverance to the Rangers, and the game of hockey, has been an inspiration for everyone in the organization, and he has become a role model for young players and veterans alike. We are excited that he will continue to provide that leadership in a Rangers uniform.”

The Rangers are fortunate that Staal was willing to sign for less than what he could have potentially earned on the open market. Staal could have conceivably earned a seven-year deal near $6.5 million in annual average value had he tested free agent waters. Look at the brutal five-year, $27.5 million contract ($5,5 million AAV) that the Capitals gave Brooks Orpik. At 34, Orpik is on the downside of his career. He is a poor skater, ineffective at driving play, has very limited offensive ability and a reputation of taking undisciplined penalties.

Surely, three or four teams would have gotten hot and heavy over Staal to the point that offers would have gotten very close to $6.5 million AAV. At minimum, he would have signed for above $6 million AAV. It’s rare for a smooth-skating, 21-minute eating, 28-year-old shutdown d-man to hit free agency. Smart GMs like Sather don’t let these kind of players slip through their fingers.

Had the Rangers opted against tying down Staal to a long-term pact, searching a replacement would’ve been a major headache. The Rangers are in no position to overpay another defenseman. They already did so when they handed Dan Girardi a six-year, $33 million extension last February. Acquiring a prime-aged replacement via trade would have cost some combination of current NHL talent, promising youth, and picks. In other words — an arm and a leg.

It’s hard to imagine how the Rangers would have gone about identifying a shutdown defenseman of Staal’s quality and particularly, one that makes a habit of dominating the likes of Alex Oveckhin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin come playoff time.

“Personally for me, I can’t speak enough about what he’s done,” McDonagh said. “Being able to watch him from when I first entered the league, he’s been a leader, a guy that speaks up in the room, a guy that brings it every night physically and does whatever he can to give his team the best chance to win.”

There isn’t a quality blue liner ready to make the jump from the AHL to the big time. Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath haven’t shown enough promise or potential to compete with John Moore and Matt Hunwick.

Some columnists and Rangers fans have described Staal’s extension as a mistake. Despite Staal’s history of concussions and a serious eye injury robbing him of his full offensive potential, he’s a darn good player and one that many GMs would have been desperate to add to their roster. The Rangers are lucky that Staal’s priority was committing his future to the only team he’s ever known.