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Marc Staal Extension: Stability At The Cost of Flexibility

The Marc Staal extension gives the Rangers a lot of stability at defense, but it comes at a price of flexibility everywhere else.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

By now you've already seen Marc Staal and the New York Rangers have agreed to a new six-year pact worth $5.7-million per season. The contract includes a full no movement clause for the first three years, which restricts trade and being sent to the minors. Thereafter, it has a modified no trade clause for the final three years, which restricts trade to certain teams under certain conditions.

Note: this was originally reported as a "full NTC and then modified NMC" by ESPN. Given the definition of each term and the ordinary course of action with contracts to 27+ players with adequate service time, this does not make sense. Further verification from other reputable news sources confirms that ESPN likely is reporting the terms incorrectly, and this article has been edited as a result.

There are more than a few ways to look at this situation, especially since Staal seems to be one of the most polarizing Rangers on the team.

While he's not a fancy stats hero, there are more than a few arguments the numbers don't tell the entire story. Personally, I've always felt corsi brushes defenseman with a broader stroke than it does for forwards, mainly because I'd rather my defenseman give up more shots from the outside than a guy who gives up less shots but more from prime scoring areas.

Staal has had his issues since the concussion, but he has bounced back of late and is a capable top-four defenseman who has really stepped up his game recently. He's been a big part of the defense that struggled mightily at the start of the year, but has also turned itself around and is churning in the right direction. It's quite clear -- from the comments coming out of the room -- the Rangers players are very happy to have Staal back as well which I think is important.

My biggest issue with the contract isn't even the years. Staal just turned 28 and will be 33 when this contract expires. It's not like he's Brooks Orpik who signed a five-year deal at the age of 34.

My problems are with the price and the fine print.

Yes, Staal could have easily commanded more than $5.7-million on the open market. If you don't believe me look at the five-year, $5.5-million deal Orpik commanded last summer. Teams who need defense will go out of their way to get said defense, even if the player doesn't provide any offense. Orpik's deal, sadly, set the stage for all defenseman who are on their way to free agency, and at 28 Staal would have been coveted by more teams than you would think.

There's something to be said about that from the other side as well. Staal could have easily pushed Glen Sather to go north of $6-million and even closer to $6.5-million. And while that still doesn't mean the deal is a steal at $5.7, it does mean Staal wanted to come back to New York and wasn't squeezing this contract for every penny he could.

This, however, might be why the fine print included three years of a full NMC and a modified NTC thereafter. This alone makes the contract scary because the Rangers are sacrificing their future flexibility for stability when there might have been cheaper options out there.

I made it clear above that I'm in the minority that likes Staal and likes what he brings to the table. I am terrified, however, of what this contract does to the team's long-term plans. Plain and simple, there will be a price tag beyond dollars associated with this contract.

At some point the next two years players like Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and J.T. Miller will need to be given raises. Right now there's simply not enough money to go around -- unless we see a dramatic increase in the salary cap, which isn't exactly something that should be banked on after last year.

In the short term the main concern is Zuccarello. According to reports the Rangers have already opened up contract talks with the forward, but it remains to be seen if the two sides will be able to bang out a deal (although there's been no negative news whatsoever as of this writing). If the contract for Staal costs the Rangers Zuccarello I think the deal takes a pretty violent turn downwards. If -- as we've speculated here -- the Rangers can make it work and eventually need to part ways with Carl Hagelin it's less of an issue but still an impact that will unfortunately be placed on the scales of which this contract is judged.

The precious flexibility the Rangers had as of two years ago has been mopped up, which happens. Players don't stay young forever, and the bridge deals -- which become so important in times like this -- eventually end and need to be extended. It's Sather's job to navigate these waters and keep the team in a position where he can juggle things as needed. Time will tell if that's still a possibility.

Which is exactly why Staal's contract might not end up being about the player it keeps in the fold, but the players potentially forced out because of it.