If you were like me, you were in denial for almost the entire time Eric Staal was part of the Rangers. When speculation of the former 100-point scorer potentially joining his brother Marc in New York arose, I was immediately sold. So much that a pair of second round picks and prospect Aleksi Saarela seemed like pocket change when the news of the trade officially broke.
Before I have to start dodging all of your tomatoes, let me explain myself. Staal was one of those trades where if he regained his scoring touch with the Rangers, it would have looked like a complete steal, but since he did not, well you all know this story.
Regular Season: 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, and a +1 in 20 games played.
Playoffs: -7 in 5 games played.
When Staal became a little more acclimated with Rangers, I was impressed with his ability to consistently win faceoffs, use his size on the forecheck, and even drive to the net hard for a goal like this...
Back to my denial though. My expectations for Staal weren't set on him being a point-per-game guy to close out the regular season, but instead a guy who would find his stride with the Rangers and contribute come playoff time.
It never happened. In fact, I think this was the first time I had seen a big-name trade acquisition regress as they gained "comfort" with their new organization. I eagerly waited to see if Staal would finally do something to contribute in every game I watched. Thankfully I didn't hold my breath, but it wasn't until playoff time when I had finally seen the light and realized it wasn't working out.
We could follow the same trend and blame Vigneault for his utilization of every player, but Staal, being the big name he is, has been around long enough to know how to make a difference. This leaves him ultimately responsible for not making the most out of his opportunity to play on a playoff team.
Final Grade: F
It would have been nice to see Eric Staal join the Rangers and give them one of the deepest pool of centers in the league. Unfortunately Staal never found his place in this lineup (with the exception of the short-lived Staal-berg line) and was even shifted to his unnatural position on the wing at some points. I gave him a free pass when he had a sub-par finish to the regular season, but his -7 while only registering 7 shots on goal during a short-lived playoff run...yeesh. Fortunately we can put Staal's stint with Rangers behind us, as he will become a UFA in July. Hopefully this will be an eye-opener for Gorton in future trade deadlines.