The Marc Staal statistic that catches your eye first: 994 NHL games played.
That doesn’t include the 109 NHL playoff games Staal has played. If a GM is looking for a veteran left-shot D man, he won’t find anyone to fit that description better than Staal. He’s not going to magically transform a mediocre defense into a top blue line corps. But he can contribute in a variety of ways. He’s 6-foot-4, kills penalties, blocks shots, clears the front of the net and competes hard every game.
“He’s brought great leadership,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s a guy who comes every day to work. The days he doesn’t feel great he still practices hard. Whether he’s injured a little bit or not, he wants to be out there. He’s got a good way about him as a person, guys can rally around him. So he’s brought really leadership and experience and he’s also brought good play still. He’s a big man who thinks the game well and he’s still in my mind a real good defenseman. He’s been a real good addition for us and I can see where in his prime in New York he would have been a hell of a defenseman.”
Marc Staal has helped Detroit’s younger defensemen, particularly Moritz Seider.
“There’s no doubt for Moritz to see guys like him in their approach and their professionalism and just also how calm they are, how calm they are under certain situations,” Blashill said. “To me, that’s an important piece of it as well. He’s definitely had a positive impact on Moritz.”
Players look up to Staal. He’s popular in the dressing room. He’s a poised defender who understands his strengths and weaknesses.
If a team is looking for a third-pairing, depth defenseman, strong on the intangibles, with a low salary cap hit, Staal could be the guy. A mid-round draft pick would likely get a deal done. Presuming the Detroit Red Wings won’t close the gap on a possible playoff spot by the trade deadline, Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman will undoubtedly ask Staal what he wants to do. He has never won a Stanley Cup and he might want to take a shot. He has played in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
Here are five teams that should consider Staal:
The Ducks may not be in a playoff spot on March 21, but they might be close enough to make a run. But they may have to trade Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm because they will be unrestricted free agents next summer. They could get a nice haul by dealing them. Why not add Staal for a mid-round draft pick to plug the hole? The Ducks can still try to compete for a postseason spot. Give the team a chance. The Ducks have missed the playoffs three seasons in a row. New Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek knows Staal’s value. He was Yzerman’s right-hand man in Detroit.
The Capitals could use a depth defenseman. The lure for the Capitals is that Staal played most of his career for the New York Rangers. He knows the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. He has the level of grit you want for a Metropolitan Division playoff game. Staal has a $2 million cap hit but Yzerman will retain half of his salary.
The Bruins have talked to the Arizona Coyotes about Jakob Chychrun. They would like to have someone who fits well with Charlie McAvoy. But if that doesn’t happen, Staal could be brought in as another option on the left side. The Bruins could use the rest of their cap space on a forward.
The Flames are the No. 1 goals-against average team in the NHL. Their defense doesn’t need help, but injuries happen in the playoffs. Staal could be an first-rate, inexpensive insurance policy.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are also trying to go big on defense. They have talked to Montreal about Ben Chiarot and the Coyotes about Chychrun. But if that doesn’t work out, would they consider bringing back Marc Staal? He’s exceptional working with yourng defenseman. The Rangers have big ambitions and adding a difference-maker up front. Staal would be a cheap pick up.