As the Rangers get set for the Bruins in a couple of hours up in Boston, defenseman Marc Staal is nearing a return from ankle surgery to repair an infection. It was sustained while blocking a shot.
Of course, the prideful 32-year old veteran played in a game after sitting out a couple despite the injury. Then, it was revealed that he had surgery. This gave a chance to Ryan Lindgren, who has since run with it by forming a solid third pair with fellow rookie Adam Fox. Given how well he’s played, it would be foolish for him to come out of the lineup.
When Staal is ready, it’s been suggested here and other spaces that he should sit out. At this critical juncture of the rebuild, the defense is starting to come together. While there are inconsistencies which you should come to expect from a top six that includes three 21-year old rookies, they have to be allowed to grow. Learning from mistakes will help their development over the long haul.
Of the six current blueliners on the roster, Libor Hajek is the weakest defensively. That’s fine. He’s young and is skilled due to strong skating. You don’t just bench him unless he has a bad game. There are peaks and valleys with young players. Especially first-year defensemen.
It’ll be interesting to see how second-year coach David Quinn goes about bringing Staal back into the lineup. Unlike other fans, who just can’t help themselves, I don’t make light of a respected player who’s given his heart and soul to the cause. Ask Henrik Lundqvist how he feels about the second most tenured Blueshirt behind him. He knows and appreciates what number 18 has been.
Staal is near the end of his Rangers career. With only a year left on his contract that pays him an AAV of $5.7 million, it’s even possible that he could get moved to a Western contender that can use a experienced defensive defenseman on a third pair. San Jose and Calgary could be potential destinations depending on what Staal’s list is. He has a partial no trade clause.
If not, there is the distinct possibility that he gets bought out next summer similarly to Black and Blueshirt Dan Girardi.
Whatever happens with Staal, don’t forget that the former ’05 first round pick has been a key part of runs in 2012, ’14 and ’15. Like Girardi, he played hurt. If they weren’t so banged around in that last run, they probably beat the Lightning and make a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final. We’ll never know how it would’ve turned out.
It’s sure to be a delegate situation for Staal, who wants to play like any veteran player. Hopefully, it’s handled well.