Selling players on the chance to play big minutes for the NHL-worst Detroit Red Wings has been a recurring theme as Yzerman set out to improve the team over the past month. The five free agents signed over the weekend heard the speech before agreeing to deals; Staal heard it after he was traded Sept. 26 from the New York Rangers, with whom he played his entire 13-season, 892-game NHL career.
"I didn't really have much of a heads-up,” Staal said Tuesday from his home in Connecticut. “Just got called and they told me I was on my way to Detroit. Obviously, it was surprising and shocking when it happens. This is the only place I’ve been my whole career, it’s been home to me for a very long time.
“After the shock of it kind of wore off and I started thinking about it more, talking to the coaching staff and Steve, that shock turned more to excitement. We had a really good talk. Talking with him makes you feel a lot more comfortable with where the team is heading. You’re going to an outstanding franchise, beautiful new rink. It’s an Original Six, so I get to go from one great franchise to the next. I’m excited to be a part of that. I think it’s a pretty good situation I’m walking into.”
The trade made a lot of sense for the Wings: The Rangers needed salary cap relief, and by Detroit taking on Staal and his $5.3 million cap hit, Yzerman secured a second-round pick in 2021. Staal should solidify the Wings’ left-side defense and bring a leadership presence to the locker room. Also, since he’s the last year of his contract, he may well be dealt to a contender at the trade deadline for another pick.
That’s on management to determine. What Staal, 33, can control is showing up in shape whenever camp commences (the latest target date for the start of next season is Jan. 1).
Staal has been working out and plans to resume skating after taking a few weeks off once the Rangers were eliminated in the qualifying round of the playoffs. He said life in the Toronto bubblewas "a bit bizarre."
"But I wasn’t there that long — 10 days. They gave you as much entertainment as possible; we had a golf simulator, a ping pong table, stuff to keep you occupied."
Staal has spent the past couple of weeks acclimatizing to coming to a new team; chatting with Yzerman made a difference.
“A lot of the conversation was him trying to relieve the shock of what happened and try to speak good things about Detroit,” Staal said, “which I know pretty well already. I’ve known a lot of guys who play there and speak very highly of it. That part I wasn’t really too worried about. The next thing was, just the opportunity to come in and be a big part of the team and play some minutes and be a guy that’s counted upon every night. I’m looking forward to that responsibility.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: How Red Wings' Steve Yzerman calmed a 'shocked' Marc Staal after trade