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Analytics and Eyeballs: Marc Staal is Bringing the D


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Any measurement of the Rangers’ defensive performance, however, must also be given the context of shot rates. Over the last couple weeks, the Rangers differentials have been, in a word, troubling. The forward group plays a large role in that, and Vigneault’s selective shot style also does, but that’s not a trend that favors this group.

 

Mobile link: https://twitter.com/ChartingHockey/status/950741453436805120

 

But therein lies the trouble with Staal. Even at his peak, he’s never been an analytics darling—which spurs much of the vitriol towards him—but he’s about the same possession player he’s always been this year. To date, he has a 45.5% corsi for (CF or CF%) with a grinding 59.3% defensive zone start (dZs) rate. Essentially, his performance is the yin to a player like Cody Franson’s yang. For the sake of Rangers-specific context, Kevin Shattenkirk has a CF of just 47.3% while cruising by with a smooth 64.2% offensive zone start percentage (oZS).

 

Marc Staal does not post solid offensive numbers and does not sparkle on spreadsheets. Where he shines is in the subtleties of playing defense and his incessantly underrated athleticism.

 

 

“Escape plays” don’t get much credit in Vigneault’s transition-based attack, especially not with elite skaters McDonagh and Brady Skjei and a puck-mover like Shattenkirk also on the back end. But where Ruff gives credit, Vigneault does as well, especially compared to last year.

 

AV told Strang, “I’ve always liked the way he defends. He’s got a great stick, he’s strong on his one-on-ones, but I will say that, so far this year, I find him more effective with the puck. He’s been able to find the easy open outlet quicker, which has enabled him and his [defensive partner] to spend a little less time in our zone. He’s had tough matchups and he’s handled them well.”

 

An unremarkable pass is often the right one in the defensive zone, and Staal has never been given the credit he deserves in this regard. Giveaways are a finicky stat, but Staal has fewer (21) than every other Ranger defenseman (other than Anthony DeAngelo and Steven Kampfer) this year. He has fewer than half the giveaways of McDonagh (45) and nearly two-thirds fewer than Shattenkirk (58). While that largely means he’s not aggressive in creating transition, it also means he’s sound and steady.

 

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Build up that trade value Marc...without Scandella Minn could use some help after/to lighten the load of their top 4 who play 26:50, 24:56, 22:41, and 21:17 a night. He also has a shit ton of playoff experience.

 

Exactly, King. Hope he keeps playing decent and builds some trade value. I'd still trade him for no return, if it meant losing most of his salary. Even if we were competing for first place, he has too many liabilities [including the obvious bad contract], to not jump at any opportunity to shed him/it. Would anyone disagree?

 

The eye versus analytics angle, distorts what is more important. He was atrocious at exiting the zone and decision making last year. He has improved that this year. Yet, he is still not going to jump start the transition or get out of trouble with his legs. Therefore a zone forecheck that closes the outlets is effective against him. When Staal's back is to the play, he is neutralized further. Credit to him that he is taking what is given, rather then make costly turnovers this year. He is using his stick well. However, he is not going to ignite the rush or make nice head man passes, hence the poor analytics.

 

Staal has always been fine 1-on-1 and is sound technically, when defending his man or the rush. Besides his contract... The issue is that he is too slow to shutdown top players consistently. His reflexes seem slower, his feet are slow which is a disadvantage down low, in front and when "escaping" pressure. This also affects his offense as he is slower to join the rush and has to be careful about not getting caught out of position. Basically he needs to be a third pair to remain competitive.

 

If this team did not have so many issues, we could be content to absorb his salary and "steadiness". However, the way this team is trending, we need younger and more dynamic players (including dmen) to make up for no 2C, no 1RHD, no Kreids and now Hayes. Is Staal now blocking a younger and much cheaper dman who can do fine as a 3rd pair defender and also add some speed and offense to the equation?

 

Even more pressing... Staal blocks things worse next year. Not just younger defenders, but our ability to get a quality FA next year or extend our own.

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I don't know if he's getting traded, regardless of his play.

1.) The contract, number 1, obviously.

2.) The return - including eating salary, will be minimal, and thats if someone overpays. (If theres a decent return in any way, I think its a universal yes)

3.) The internet-anticipated removal of AV. The immediate replacement, but with most coaching changes, they'll let that coach pick his roster. (In the previous regimes, each coach got roster say prior to being fired, but that was Slats.)

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Build up that trade value Marc...without Scandella Minn could use some help after/to lighten the load of their top 4 who play 26:50, 24:56, 22:41, and 21:17 a night. He also has a shit ton of playoff experience.

Interesting thought, but we'd have to retain a lot of that salary, since, after this year, Dumba's going to get a raise and they'll probably be paying 3 defenders 5 million, with Brodin already making over 4 as well.

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Has become a non-physical player since injury and it shows around the defensive zone.

 

I'll try to keep an eye on this in future games, but I don't believe this is true. Staal's never been a devastating hitter, but he uses his strength well in front of the net and along the boards. One of his go to escape moves is to shield the puck off from an opposing player's pressure, sort of push that player past him and reverse with the puck to escape. That's using his strength (and hockey IQ) to make a successful play.

 

If anything's suffered since his injury, it's his offensive game, which is worse than non-existant, he thinks he can still be effective, joins the play, only to repeatedly making nothing but possession turnovers.

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His play is improved but his contract simply precludes anything approaching a conventional trade. He is not worth the money now, let alone several years from now. If you agreed to absorb the maximum half of his contract and took on someone else's problem in return, maybe you could trade him, but what good would that do? The no-move clause runs until this summer and after that there is a limited no-trade clause (which I presume limits the teams to which he can be traded). We couldn't trade him without his consent at the deadline. I think Gorton is probably planning on buying him out. If his play continues to be passable, it will be after next season rather than this year. It's a little depressing that Staal is the least of our problems at the moment.
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His play is improved but his contract simply precludes anything approaching a conventional trade. He is not worth the money now, let alone several years from now. If you agreed to absorb the maximum half of his contract and took on someone else's problem in return, maybe you could trade him, but what good would that do? The no-move clause runs until this summer and after that there is a limited no-trade clause (which I presume limits the teams to which he can be traded). We couldn't trade him without his consent at the deadline. I think Gorton is probably planning on buying him out. If his play continues to be passable, it will be after next season rather than this year. It's a little depressing that Staal is the least of our problems at the moment.

 

I agree with some of this and disagree with other parts. I think you're spot on with saying you can't do a conventional trade. However, I think these are the likely options with moving on from Staal:

 

1. Trade with 50% salary retention. Staal would be a decent player signed for 3 years at $2.85M (average of $2.5M per year in actual salary since his contract dives a little). I think you could even get a modest return there, maybe a 3rd round pick or a C level prospect.

 

2. Trade with no retention for another team's problem that better fits the Rangers. Given the team's young forward core, maybe that's a forward with too high a salary. You can tweak this around the edges by including something with Staal to maybe knock a year off the length of the contract, or maybe $1M less in salary.

 

3. Buyout. This one hurts a little more than retention as far as cap hit after year 1. Starting in 18/19, it would be $2M, $3M, $3.8M then $1.35M X 3 years. The actual salary is $8.1M total, verses $7.5M in a 50% retention trade.

 

Obviously, these are in preferential order. According to Capfriendly, Staal has a NMC for the duration of his contract. So if he refused to waive, #3 would be the only viable option. Then it might make sense to wait one more year, considering his play this year. With buyouts, you always have to determine whether the dead cap space and salary of replacement give you a better player than just keeping the player you'd buyout. That might not be the case until the following year, and the buyout is softer then as well.

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I agree with some of this and disagree with other parts. I think you're spot on with saying you can't do a conventional trade. However, I think these are the likely options with moving on from Staal:

 

1. Trade with 50% salary retention. Staal would be a decent player signed for 3 years at $2.85M (average of $2.5M per year in actual salary since his contract dives a little). I think you could even get a modest return there, maybe a 3rd round pick or a C level prospect.

 

2. Trade with no retention for another team's problem that better fits the Rangers. Given the team's young forward core, maybe that's a forward with too high a salary. You can tweak this around the edges by including something with Staal to maybe knock a year off the length of the contract, or maybe $1M less in salary.

 

3. Buyout. This one hurts a little more than retention as far as cap hit after year 1. Starting in 18/19, it would be $2M, $3M, $3.8M then $1.35M X 3 years. The actual salary is $8.1M total, verses $7.5M in a 50% retention trade.

 

Obviously, these are in preferential order. According to Capfriendly, Staal has a NMC for the duration of his contract. So if he refused to waive, #3 would be the only viable option. Then it might make sense to wait one more year, considering his play this year. With buyouts, you always have to determine whether the dead cap space and salary of replacement give you a better player than just keeping the player you'd buyout. That might not be the case until the following year, and the buyout is softer then as well.

 

July 1 we'll have a list he'd agree to go to. If the Rangers fall apart before the deadline, then there is always a chance Staal agrees to a trade to a playoff team. We would also need a playoff team desperate for a defender. Staal would need to keep his play positive, as well.

 

As for retention, there is a chance it could be less than 50%, as you mentioned. A lot depends on the return, of course. If the return is small, maybe we only retain 2 Mil per. If we get a "bad" contract back, then retention could be nil.

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I know its wierd. Pretty sure CapFriendly used to have it differently. Every article from when he signed says the same thing...

 

The deal, which will carry an annual $5.7 million cap hit, was reached in the aftermath of a meeting in Boston on Wednesday between Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton and agent Paul Krepelka that was reported exclusively by The Post on Friday. It is believed to include a full no-move clause for the first three seasons followed by a modified no-trade.

 

https://nypost.com/2015/01/16/rangers-marc-staal-agree-on-six-year-extension/

 

Will still have the NMC so they can't send him down or waive him, but he has to give the Rangers a list of teams he will accept a trade to.

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Given that we don't have anything better to put on the third pair, why are we so anxious to trade him if it means retaining salary and/or taking on other people's problems (which we would probably grow to dislike more than we dislike Staal now)? On a team that has resorted to a guy who was on the taxi squad coming out of training camp as a first unit defender and is now enduring prolonged indifferent play from Kevin Shattenkirk, I wouldn't be too worried about Marc Staal.
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Given that we don't have anything better to put on the third pair, why are we so anxious to trade him if it means retaining salary and/or taking on other people's problems (which we would probably grow to dislike more than we dislike Staal now)? On a team that has resorted to a guy who was on the taxi squad coming out of training camp as a first unit defender and is now enduring prolonged indifferent play from Kevin Shattenkirk, I wouldn't be too worried about Marc Staal.

 

Any potential trades the Rangers make in season are 100% directly related to the standings. If the Rangers fall out of a playoff spot over the next month they'll become sellers looking to move Nash, Grabs, DD, and Holden. If you can find a taker for Staal as well, even better. At that point adding a "weaker" player to the third pair is actually more beneficial. You call up Graves for the last month or two. Allows you to see Graves at the NHL level. If Graves plays well awesome. If he sucks you learn that about him and while improving you draft position.

 

You should be worried about Staal. While he may be playing better than last year, it remains highly unlikely he plays out the contract here. If we truly have any shot at signing Taraves we could really use the $2.8M saved by trading Staal 50% retained. Also, retaining 50% of his salary is better cap wise than buying out the last 2 or 3 years of the contract.

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Any potential trades the Rangers make in season are 100% directly related to the standings. If the Rangers fall out of a playoff spot over the next month they'll become sellers looking to move Nash, Grabs, DD, and Holden. If you can find a taker for Staal as well, even better. At that point adding a "weaker" player to the third pair is actually more beneficial. You call up Graves for the last month or two. Allows you to see Graves at the NHL level. If Graves plays well awesome. If he sucks you learn that about him and while improving you draft position.

 

You should be worried about Staal. While he may be playing better than last year, it remains highly unlikely he plays out the contract here. If we truly have any shot at signing Taraves we could really use the $2.8M saved by trading Staal 50% retained. Also, retaining 50% of his salary is better cap wise than buying out the last 2 or 3 years of the contract.

 

It gets a little more nuanced, cap-wise. Year 1 (18/19) of a Staal buyout this Summer would see a savings of $500K over a 50% retained trade. So if there is a signing target like Tavares where every little bit of cap space will become vital in year 1, then a buyout could be preferable. You can worry about year 2 (19/20) when a Staal buyout would add $500K over a 50% retention when Zucc and McDonagh are UFAs and there could be cap savings there if the team moves on from them.

 

How you handle this all depends on short-term and long-term objectives and targets. It's all complicated by how many seasons the Rangers "went for it" specifically when the team wasn't really close enough to. That will likely be the case again this deadline.

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Doubt the NYR will be signing Tavares.

 

What they need to do is know if they want to go that route, understand whether they are in a position to do that or not cap-wise, and if he wants to sign here.

 

To the cap-wise portion of that program, it's completely doable, although it will take some planning and determinations on who on the roster is expendable to make that happen.

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