(Photo via fulltilnyr.com)
After a slew of big trades taking place as we approach the NHL trade deadline, no move seemed quite as big or interesting as the New York Ranger’s recent move to acquire longtime Hurricanes captain and leader, Eric Staal, to play alongside his brother. The Rangers, in return, are sending over two second-round picks and prospect Aleksi Saarela to Carolina. They drafted Saarela in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL Draft, and has been considered a highly-rated offensive prospect from Finland. Plus, another aspect of the deal includes the Hurricanes’ agreement to retain 50 percent of Staal’s current $9.5 million contract before he becomes a free agent at the end of this year, a huge bonus for the Rangers.
Eric Staal has recently been stating his desire to team up with his brother, Marc, in New York, as they try to chase the Stanley Cup title. Eric was the last player standing from Carolina’s 2005 Stanley Cup run, and has been the team’s outright leader since then. Carolina hopes that this move allows them to officially focus on their future through the acquisition of more draft picks and prospects.
From a 2016 playoff perspective, this is a great move for the Rangers, who can slot him in at winger and provide a dangerous offensive punch for them in the postseason. Someone with years of NHL experience to go along with his desire to play in New York, alongside his brother, can lead to a tremendous payoff for a team looking to stop the Washington Capitals in their tracks in the Eastern Conference. They will need all the firepower they can get and the Staal acquisition surely provides them with the necessary weaponry to perhaps win the Stanley Cup this postseason. The Rangers have been smelling it for years now with the core group of guys already in place, but have unfortunately fallen just short in back to back seasons (lost in 5 against LA Kings in 2014 Stanley Cup Finals and lost in 7 games to Tampa Bay last season).
While this move can bring the Rangers to their first Cup win since the miraculous 1994 season, many have become skeptical of the Rangers’ plan to perhaps sabotage their future in hopes of immediate turnout. They have been big buyers during the past three trade deadlines, and in the process, they have traded away a lot of young talent that could have really helped them in the future, if/when the current core players (Nash, Staal, Lundqvist, etc.) begin to fade in the coming years.
In my view, this was a fantastic move for the Rangers. This team is battle-tested, angry, and eager to chase that Stanley Cup after recent failures. The Rangers have to be in a win-now mode, if you consider the talent they have on both sides of the ice, both young and old. They have a near complete team and every NHL fan knows that facing King Hank in the playoffs is never an easy task. Furthermore, I think the team has done a fine job of retaining core young talent, regardless of the recent trade deadline moves. Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Kevin Hayes still provide the team with a great young core for the future to go along with players like Ryan McDonagh, Derek Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello, who are all entering their primes. The success of this trade can only be evaluated once we see how New York finishes this season, but, there is no doubt that they are in a better position for the Cup now than they were a few days ago.
– J. Yellin