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The Next Elephant In The Room: What To Do About Marc Staal?

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We've managed to clear a lot of salary over recent months. The two biggest salaries on the books right now are Henrik at $8.5 mil through the end of the 20-21 season, and Kevin Shattenkirk at $6.65 mil through the end of the 20-21 season. The next largest salary? You guessed it: Marc Staal. Locked in at $5.7 mil through the end of the 20-21 season.


Now that contract was originally a pretty great deal. He was a great defenseman already (remember when he used to be able to shut down Ovechkin single-handedly, or at least drive him a little nuts?) and was trending up. Then the injuries happened. Notably, getting clocked from behind by his brother one year and losing an eye to a slapshot another year. Factor in other miscellaneous injuries, and suddenly he became a shell of what he was. He rapidly assumed the cap anchor status that his defensive partner and sister-deal breadwinner Dan Girardi earned with flying colors (still convinced G had money on LA in 2014 the same way Malik had money on the Sabres in 07).


Granted, he was better this year. There was some chatter about how he was back to his old self, or at least something resembling it. But gone is the fresh face we saw score his first NHL goal at Prudential Center. Gone is the top-pairing defenseman we had come to rely on so heavily. What we have now is an embattled, beaten-up and broken-down $6 mil third-pairing player that's on the wrong side of 30. If that sounds harsh, I apologize for offending your delicate sensibilities. Merely voicing frustration here.


As we continue moving in a new direction, in a sense it feels like Staal is the last surviving bastion of a team that took its shot each year, future be damned, and missed (excluding Henrik of course, who has been a rock-steady and stalwart presence throughout every one of the many iterations of this team post-lockout). If we really want to be maximizing our chances at competing in the near future, you just CAN'T have $6 mil tied up in a player whose minutes you have to shelter to get maximum value out of.


Per cap friendly, the cap hit for a buyout right now would work as follows:

2018-19: savings $3,644,444, cap hit $2,055,556

2019-20: savings $2,644,444, cap hit $3,055,556

2020-21: savings $1,844,444, cap hit $3,855,556

2021 through end of 2024: cap hit $1,355,556


Now that's a tough pill to swallow. So what's the best way out from under this? Take our lumps, accept that we got boned by the hockey gods once again, and wait for the nightmare to be over? Eat some of the cap hit and flip him to a contender at the deadline looking to shore up their third pairing with a veteran? Buy him out and replace him with something that will likely end up costing more in two years when you factor in the cap savings/cap hit? What would you do? What's the most likely outcome?

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Buying him out now would push his salary from a time when we do not have cap problems (now) to a time when we will (years from now). He was +11 this year. Hayes at +1 was the only other plus player. We have open slots on defense and don't need his slot for a player pushing for a deserved spot. This isn't a compelling set of circumstances for buying him out. It may be very different a year from now, at which time the cap consequences of buying him out will be that much less negative. He's the least of our problems at the moment.
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I'm a bit torn on Staal. At which point does his utter inability to do anything useful with the puck negate his undoubted defensive contribution?

Sometimes I feel he's a bit like AV. Obviously good at what he does, but his time has passed and he isn't right for what we're trying to do going forward. On the other hand, feels a bit rushed to flip one of the few actual veterans at this point, certainly with regards to D. Summary: I dunno.

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No need to buy him out. He can shed some experience for the new kids coming up. I actually Think Staal is a throwback to that OLD SCHOOL defenseman...He just had no support system to work within. Now with AV gone, we can possibly set up a system that actually fucking supports a real breakout and gives a defensive defenseman a lane to pass the puck without having to thread a needle.


Fuck it....keep him! I wanna see how Staal plays under a different system, and a different coach. I bet he has a good season next year too!

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