Another Staal is on the move. Ten days after oldest brother Eric Staal was traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Buffalo Sabres, Marc Staal has been dealt to the Detroit Red Wings by the New York Rangers. Both teams have confirmed the trade, which will see Staal and a 2021 second-round pick go to Detroit in exchange for future considerations. This is a pure salary cap dump by the Rangers, who do not retain any salary in the trade.
Staal, 33, has only ever played for the Rangers after the team used the 12th overall pick to select him in 2005. While Staal has been a long-time stalwart for New York and even an All-Star at one point, his game has been on the decline for some time. Entering the final season of a six-year, $34.2MM contract, the Rangers have been trying to move Staal and his $5.7MM cap hit and have finally succeeded. It comes at the cost of a second-round draft pick, but will give the team much-needed flexibility to re-sign restricted free agent defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, a protégé of Staal’s, as well as RFA forwards Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux while maintaining the ability to improve elsewhere in free agency.
As for Detroit, this could merely be the beginning of GM Steve Yzerman weaponizing his cap space. The rebuilding Red Wings have several of their own restricted free agents to sign this off-season, but have more than enough room to work with given their projected $27.4MM in cap space. This allows Yzerman to essentially buy a high draft pick by taking on Staal’s contract, which counts for $5.7MM against the cap but is worth only $3.2MM in real dollars. Detroit now has three second-round picks in 2021 and 12 picks in the first three rounds over the next two drafts, with more surely on the way.
The one remaining question in this deal (other than the future considerations of course) is whether Staal actually plays for Detroit or not. While the young Red Wings could use his veteran presence, they already have Danny DeKeyser, Patrik Nemeth, and Dennis Cholowski on the left side and are expected to be a top suitor for UFA Torey Krug. This deal was about the second-rounder more than it was Staal, so the team could opt to buy out the remaining year of his contract and make him a free agent. Such a move would save the team just over $1MM in real dollars and over $2MM against the cap this year, with a cap penalty of about $1MM being tacked on in 2021-22. Detroit could also opt not to buy out Staal, but explore trading him with salary retained to try to recoup even more draft capital. Or Staal could simply play out his final season in Detroit. Only time will tell in this unpredictable off-season.