New York Rangers not currently thinking long-term with Eric Staal

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RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 21: Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up prior to an NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena on February 21, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 21: Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up prior to an NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena on February 21, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has not talked to newly acquired forward Eric Staal about a new contract.

Before he traded a 2016 second-round pick, a 2017 second-round pick and prospect Alexi Saarela for Staal, Gorton didn’t have permission to talk to Staal – a pending unrestricted free agent this summer – about a possible deal.

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“We’re acquiring the player to play for us tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” Gorton said on a conference call with reporters. 

The way Gorton portrayed the deal, whether the Rangers win or lose the trade has to do with if they win the Stanley Cup in 2015-16. This trade was made for strictly this season.

“We’re acquiring him to help make our team better today and see where it takes us and then on a going forward basis we hope it works out real well for both and we’ll talk then, but for now he’s a Ranger for today and we’ll see what happens,” Gorton said. 

The 31-year-old Staal is reportedly seeking a contract that will pay him $9 million annually. Staal had been with the Hurricanes since he was picked No. 2 overall by the team in 2003. He was also the team’s captain. Staal was considered one of the biggest names on the trade market this year.

The Hurricanes are retaining half of Staal’s $8.25 million salary cap hit for the rest of this season. 

The Rangers were comfortable adding Staal, even though he’s struggled through his least productive season in 12 years. Staal has 33 points in 63 games. His 0.52 points per-game are his lowest since his first full season in the NHL, which came in 2003-04. He has 10 goals and 23 assists in 63 games.

Staal has averaged 0.85 points per-game in his career and had seasons of 70-or-more points from 2005-06 through 2011-12. In the lockout shortened 2012-13 season he averaged more than a point per-game.

Even though Staal has struggled as far as goals and assists, he was one of the top advanced-stat players on Carolina. According to War-on-Ice, 5-on-5 Staal led the team with a 56.68 CF%. His CF%Rel was plus-5.89. This meant the Hurricanes held onto the puck more than their opponent with Staal on the ice as well as relative to the rest of the team.

Gorton believed that Staal’s scoring issues had to do with his environment to some degree. He believes jumping into a contending situation with the Rangers could boost Staal’s production. The Hurricanes have 66 points, four behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I would say to you that we’re looking at a player that we think would get energized by this trade,” Gorton said. “We see the numbers. We’ve scouted him a lot. I think we know the player as well as anybody and we think we’ve put him into our team, surround him by some of the pieces we have, that we’re going to get a lot out of him and he’s going to be energized to come to New York and play for the Rangers.”

Coming into Sunday, the Washington Capitals were running away with the Eastern Conference with 94 points while the Rangers had 78 points. Gorton was asked if this trade was done to keep up with the Caps heading into the playoffs. 

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Internally we’re trying to be the best we can be as a Rangers team and improve it and try to become a harder team to play against. I would say this really helps our top-nine forward group.”

In order to make the trade happen, the Staal had to move his no-trade clause. Gorton noted the fact that New York has his brother Marc probably helped with this decision.

Gorton was also asked about defenseman Keith Yandle, another pending unrestricted free agent and whether the Rangers are looking to trade him. New York acquired Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes last season, and Gorton said in all likelihood, Yandle (who carries a $2.625 million salary cap hit) will stay with New York through the trading deadline. Yandle ranks third on the Rangers with 35 points this season. The Coyotes agreed to pick up half of his $5.25 million per-year salary, which lessened his cap hit for New York. 

“I would say to you we’re not trading him,” Gorton said. “We like the fact that he can really move the puck. He can play in your top-four, he can play in your power play, he can play against most players in the league. He’s a great teammate. He’s here. He wants to win. When we acquired him we had him with one year left at a real good number and half the price too and the way we looked at it is we’ll have at least two good runs with Keith and that’s how it’s going to play out.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

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