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What if the Rangers Buyout Both Girardi and Staal?

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Dave Rogers

Editor-in-chief, Cleared for Contact

Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
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This postseason has taught us again that in order to advance through the playoffs, even when you get the best matchups you could hope for, there is no shortcut past having all three of the necessary components of a top hockey team. You need great goaltending (not the same as a great goalie, necessarily), you need forward depth (right, J-G Pageau?) and you have to have defensive depth.

No, I’m not about to malign Nick Holden for his defensive miscues that contributed greatly to the Rangers losing an overtime game in each of the first two rounds, or all the other mistakes he’s made through eight playoff games so far. And as much as I think that Alain Vigneault is the wrong coach for taking a less than great team to a Stanley Cup Final win, this is not about roster deployment issues, either.

The Rangers are simply handcuffed by the fact that they have only one top pairing defender in Ryan McDonagh, an up and coming 2/3/4 defenseman in Brady Skjei, a reliable 3/4/5 rear guard in trade deadline acquisition Brendan Smith and then flotsam that should be filling out the 5/6/7/8 spots in Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Nick Holden, Kevin Klein, Adam Clendening and Steven Kampfer. So the coach is forced to shove square pegs in three round holes every night. While AV doesn’t often do that optimally, given the players he does have, he still would be unable to put together defensive pairings that would give the Rangers a legitimate chance at a Cup run at the moment.

This can’t be fixed right now. Even if the Rangers somehow stumble back past Ottawa, they’ll run into buzz saws in the next round and beyond. Nothing short of a series of devastating injuries to better teams (sorry, Sidney Crosby) will have the Rangers gearing up for a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City after the conclusion to this season.

It is time for the Rangers to get proactive. And the best they can do now is swallow the hard pill, in buying out both Staal and Girardi prior to this summer’s Expansion Draft.

No doubt it’s a lot of dead cap space to carry, but perhaps with the defensive prospects they now have thanks to some savvy work by Rangers GM Jeff Gorton on the young free agent market, he’s created the perfect time to rip the band aid right off.

The approximate combined dead cap space by year a buyout of the two out of their depth defensemen would be:

17/18 – $3.7
18/19 – $5.7
19/20 – $6.7
20/21 – $5.1
21/22 – $2.5
22/23 – $2.5
23/24 – $1.4
24/25 – $1.4

Obviously, years two through four are the toughest ones, but there’s another way to look at all of these numbers. Here is what the Rangers will be paying out to the two of them if they keep both through upcoming seasons:

17/18 – $11.2
18/19 – $11.2
19/20 – $11.2
20/21 – $5.7

For the next four years, including the two through four “tough” years, this is what the Rangers would actually save on the cap through a buyout:

17/18 – $7.5M
18/19 – $5.5M
19/20 – $4.5M
20/21 – $0.5M

The only really tough year is 20/21, where the Rangers would not be able to use the saved cap space to cover their replacements. After that, there is a couple of million dollars of dead cap space each season, but that’s completely manageable and not really worth worrying about. If we look all the way ahead to 20/21, what we find is that that’s the year after Lundqvist’s $8.5M contract ends, so even if he plays out his entire deal, the Rangers will have a huge amount of cap relief that exact season. They will likely be in a transition time anyway trying to find a new number one goalie.

This is not enough cap space to properly fill the holes the Rangers’ have in the short term, but it would contribute quite a bit towards that cause. The Rangers will also likely have to sacrifice some forward depth in exchange for a younger defender as well. Of course, that’s a much easier pill to swallow, considering one of Pavel Buchnevich and J.T. Miller have found themselves playing on the fourth line at times when the team was healthy simply because there was no room for both of them in the Rangers top-9.

I won’t go into replacement specifics, there are plenty of avenues for that and we’ve discussed some before. Having two extra expansion draft protection spots on defense freed up by ridding the team of Staal and Girardi’s No Movement Clauses would give the Rangers great flexibility in making trades for defenders. They have assets to trade in the form of young forwards. One only needs to look towards Anaheim to find a team in trouble as far as the ability to protect all their young, valuable defenders, who themselves also have an extra spot to protect a forward. There are probably other teams in a similar boat.

Whether the Rangers re-sign Smith, go after UFA prize defender Kevin Shattenkirk or both, any extra cap dollars will help in that endeavor. From there, the Rangers will have to soon put some trust in the prospects they’ve just acquired, whether it’s KHL standout Alexei Bereglazov, NCAA All-Star Neal Pionk or one of the few AHL defenders they have with any promise such as Ryan Graves. In the meantime, they’ll still have Holden, Klein and Kampfer to fill out the bottom pair and depth defender positions.

By shedding both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, using their two available acquisition assets of cap space and forward depth, coupled with the defensive prospects they’ve managed to acquire, the Rangers will fast forward their ability to field a more balanced defense while still having plenty of depth at forward and Henrik Lundqvist in net, who’s proven this postseason so far that his window hasn’t closed just yet. Jeff Gorton will have to make some things happen on the UFA and trade front, but then, that’s his job. Yes, ripping off the band-aid will hurt, but sometimes you need some short-term pain for that elusive long-term gain. Prior to the Expansion Draft is the exact time to go ahead and start that process moving forward.

Discussion





  1. Quote Originally Posted by AmericanJesus
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    Well, they're the best we have. If you're looking to sign a goal scorer, you take a look at the number of goals a player has, but not in a vacuum. You also look at shots on goal and now even shot attempts to find out shooting percentage. You look at multiple seasons to find stronger trends. You look at other stats as well to find out if you're getting a one trick wonder on an outlier season or a legitimate goal scoring threat. You also look at game film and have scouts. This sort of analysis can keep a team from overpaying a Matt Belesky based on a one off 20+ goal season where the player had a high shooting percentage, or to realize the actual value of a Brandon Pirri so you can pay him accordingly.



    I don't disagree with any of that, especially when it comes to goal scoring. But to say that JT Miller would have more goals than Mats Zuccarello if given the spot on the second line because he had more goals this year doesn't really work. There are too many variables that go into just one goal, let alone a whole season's worth.

    I'm saying that there's no stat or collection of stats that proves "measureable negative impact," especially not possession stats and especially not when a guy has a good +/-. You'd need concrete stats like Turnovers that led to goals against to prove that, and even then, there are way too many factors at play.





    Quote Originally Posted by Phil in Absentia
    View Post

    They don't have to account for everything. They're top level. You use them in conjunction with others, as well as what your eyes tell you, to draw big-picture conclusions about performance.

    But let me put it this way — find me a statistic in which you feel Girardi is a net positive. Then find me another. And another. How many do you think you can come up with versus the number of them that are net negative? That's what this boils down to. Divided over cost, which is always a losing affair for he and Staal given their poor production and high contract cost.



    My point is that net positive and net negative don't hold any weight because they can't possibly account for context. G is more likely to have "net negative" possession stats than other defenders because he's constantly getting d-zone starts against Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Of course he's going to give up a lot of shots.

    All of the "net negative stats" you refer to are basically the same thing - shot attempts against and for. G's a positive +/-. I don't know how that stat doesn't matter but shot attempts does. In both cases, there is way too much context for either to carry a lot of weight, especially when the argument is that "X player would be better in the same situation." If Corsi, Fenwick, etc. all matter, then there's no reason that +/- doesn't, and nobody ever talks about G's +/-.

    And for the record, I'm not even arguing that G has a good contract or that they shouldn't try to upgrade him on the first pair. I just think that "player has bad Corsi, is bad" arguments don't work when talking about whether or not a player is a detriment to his team or the guys he's on the ice with. Like last night he was the best Ranger in terms of shot attempts for/against - at 12-6 I think - but it's not like he played any differently than he ever does.





    Quote Originally Posted by Future
    View Post

    No.

    Statistics for how a given player performs work just fine. What they don't do, is show how a specific player performs in relation to other players. I.e. G Corsi is 45, Skjei Corsi is 52 therefore G is a detriment and Skjei is better. Those arguments I don't like.

    I agree with that last paragraph. But the stats don't prove it because they simply can't account for the number of factors that go into them.



    Well, they're the best we have. If you're looking to sign a goal scorer, you take a look at the number of goals a player has, but not in a vacuum. You also look at shots on goal and now even shot attempts to find out shooting percentage. You look at multiple seasons to find stronger trends. You look at other stats as well to find out if you're getting a one trick wonder on an outlier season or a legitimate goal scoring threat. You also look at game film and have scouts. This sort of analysis can keep a team from overpaying a Matt Belesky based on a one off 20+ goal season where the player had a high shooting percentage, or to realize the actual value of a Brandon Pirri so you can pay him accordingly.
    They don't have to account for everything. They're top level. You use them in conjunction with others, as well as what your eyes tell you, to draw big-picture conclusions about performance.

    But let me put it this way — find me a statistic in which you feel Girardi is a net positive. Then find me another. And another. How many do you think you can come up with versus the number of them that are net negative? That's what this boils down to. Divided over cost, which is always a losing affair for he and Staal given their poor production and high contract cost.





    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanJesus
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    You're basically dispelling the use of statistics for anything. The way statistics work is that, given enough data, trends can be seen. These trends can have implications. Many factors go into how much importance to give these trends. Those who use statistics properly don't pretend that they paint a perfect picture, either. They don't. However, they can indicate the likeliness of something, sometimes very strongly.

    Still, neither Staal nor Girardi play the style of game we're trying to play. So while they do benefit the team in certain ways, they also hurt it. I'd argue, given their percentage of the cap they're using, the team is better served being rid of both of them, even if it means carrying dead cap hit. If that can be with a trade, then fine. If it means buying one or both out, I'm fine with that too. What ever makes the best cap sense should be done.



    No.

    Statistics for how a given player performs work just fine. What they don't do, is show how a specific player performs in relation to other players. I.e. G Corsi is 45, Skjei Corsi is 52 therefore G is a detriment and Skjei is better. Those arguments I don't like.

    I agree with that last paragraph. But the stats don't prove it because they simply can't account for the number of factors that go into them.





    Quote Originally Posted by Future
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    I mean, I think outside of points, X player has X impact on Y player or X player has a negative impact vs. another player is silly. The only way to do that is to substitute players in when all other factors remain the same, and you can't do that. If you want to compare G to, say, Skjei, you would literally have to give the two the same linemates, opponents, zone starts, save and shooting percentage, score and time remaining, AND account for mental mistakes or smart plays that teammates and opponents make. You can't possibly do that.

    I mean, say G/Mac are on the ice and a forward falls down in the o-zone and takes 20 seconds to get off the ice. Mac changes and G is out there for a long shift that starts with an odd man rush, and the Rangers give up 4 shots. All of a sudden, G is a -4 Corsi w/out Mac. Next thing you know, people are using that game to show that, without Mac, G sucks so G must be a drain on Mac. That's how these stats get used. The rhetoric around G is that he can't move the puck blah blah blah, but Mac has slightly more giveaways per game. Couldn't I pretty easily say that, if Mac didn't give the puck away so much, G would look a lot better?

    If the eyeball test says that G is a negative player, then fine. He has his flaws. But the stats supporting that kind of point in either direction are built explicitly to support those narratives and they can't possibly account for the infinite other factors that go into every SOG.



    You're basically dispelling the use of statistics for anything. The way statistics work is that, given enough data, trends can be seen. These trends can have implications. Many factors go into how much importance to give these trends. Those who use statistics properly don't pretend that they paint a perfect picture, either. They don't. However, they can indicate the likeliness of something, sometimes very strongly.

    With Girardi, a lot of what we see from shot attempt differential metrics bare out. Especially when you look over his career. Last year was a particularly bad year for him. You could see that statistically, you could see it with your eyes. So too was he better this year, again, you can see that using stats and eyeballs.

    Now, I've always said that with Girardi, a lot of factors go into this. First, the team he plays for. The Rangers under AV have passed up low danger shot attempts to try to create higher danger ones. They've also played with a lead quite a bit more than average. AV has used a system where shot generation with the lead is greatly reduced. Couple all of that with Girardi's style of play where he'd rather block a shot or force it wide rather than engage in a one on one situation against the rush and you've got a Corsi dog on your hands. I've always gone eyeballs with Girardi and my eyeballs have told me that he's had a bounce back season.

    That doesn't mean perfect, so those that point to, for instance, his shit cross ice pass at the Rangers' blue line that instantly lead to a goal against are using a small sample size to try to prove he's been terrible. That play was terrible, it stands out in the mind, but especially in the first series, Girardi was one of our best defenders through the first 4 games.

    Still, neither Staal nor Girardi play the style of game we're trying to play. So while they do benefit the team in certain ways, they also hurt it. I'd argue, given their percentage of the cap they're using, the team is better served being rid of both of them, even if it means carrying dead cap hit. If that can be with a trade, then fine. If it means buying one or both out, I'm fine with that too. What ever makes the best cap sense should be done.





    Quote Originally Posted by Phil in Absentia
    View Post

    How is it a misnomer—a wrong or inaccurate name or designation—if you can actually measure negative impact? This makes no sense. I agree they're not a catch-all statistic, but I qualified the statement by including "nearly". There are games in which they don't, but if we're slicing their pie up, the larger portion will not be positive. Especially in the case of Girardi. You disagree?



    I mean, I think outside of points, X player has X impact on Y player or X player has a negative impact vs. another player is silly. The only way to do that is to substitute players in when all other factors remain the same, and you can't do that. If you want to compare G to, say, Skjei, you would literally have to give the two the same linemates, opponents, zone starts, save and shooting percentage, score and time remaining, AND account for mental mistakes or smart plays that teammates and opponents make. You can't possibly do that.

    I mean, say G/Mac are on the ice and a forward falls down in the o-zone and takes 20 seconds to get off the ice. Mac changes and G is out there for a long shift that starts with an odd man rush, and the Rangers give up 4 shots. All of a sudden, G is a -4 Corsi w/out Mac. Next thing you know, people are using that game to show that, without Mac, G sucks so G must be a drain on Mac. That's how these stats get used. The rhetoric around G is that he can't move the puck blah blah blah, but Mac has slightly more giveaways per game. Couldn't I pretty easily say that, if Mac didn't give the puck away so much, G would look a lot better?

    If the eyeball test says that G is a negative player, then fine. He has his flaws. But the stats supporting that kind of point in either direction are built explicitly to support those narratives and they can't possibly account for the infinite other factors that go into every SOG.
    Girardi's deal goes from a NMC to a M-NTC on 7/1/17 and he must list 15 teams that he would accept a trade to, so HE IS trade-able but you might either a) trade his bad contract for another one or b) retain salary so his deal is more palatable to a prospective trade partner. Staal's deal also becomes a M-NTC but on 7/1/18 so the team would have to decide if they want to buy him out NOW or wait one more year and see if he can be trade-able.





    Quote Originally Posted by Future
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    This is an even bigger misnomer, because none of those metrics take into account the full context of a game.

    I mean, the goal last night was Mac's responsibility, but it will still be used to show how G is a detriment.



    How is it a misnomer—a wrong or inaccurate name or designation—if you can actually measure negative impact? This makes no sense. I agree they're not a catch-all statistic, but I qualified the statement by including "nearly". There are games in which they don't, but if we're slicing their pie up, the larger portion will not be positive. Especially in the case of Girardi. You disagree?





    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanJesus
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    With Staal, the bigger issue is that he doesn't fit our system at all. He has zero offensive abilities, from his first pass, to joining the rush, to keeping plays alive in the offensive zone or getting shots on goal. He's OK defensively. He battles well against the wall and doesn't get beaten one on one very often. He's got ok physicality, although he doesn't clear the crease as well as I'd like.

    I have no doubt that there are guys making the same money he does in the league with his tenure, but most bring more than just a defensive game to the table. I mean, the guys around him that you put up there put up 30-40 points in addition to being adequate defensively, or like Myers, Orpik, etc, are viewed as bad contracts.



    Idk, are Green, Sekera, and Goligoski adequate defensively? Staal is better in his own zone than all of those guys...Niskanen is probably the only point producer who is good in his own zone on this list and, really, the only guy who is "better" defensively is Boychuck, maybe Johnson. In general I agree that he doesn't fit the system (though it's really stupid if you have a system that a strong defensive defenseman can't play in and he'd look a lot better if he was playing next to a puck mover), but it's not like this contract is unworkable or that it means you're going to have to eat a whole bunch of salary to move him. There are so many guys right in this range that it's hard to say he's overpriced. He's market value.





    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger Lothbrok
    View Post

    What are people's thoughts on buying out G and trading Staal but retaining some salary? Maybe $1.5 to put him at $4.2. That's a way easier pill for a team to swallow for what he brings (or doesn't bring), and like we said, teams are always looking for a steady, playoff-experienced veteran presence.



    What ever makes more sense, cap-wise, I'm fine with. If we can get a return for Staal that has value and retain less salary than we'd have to in a buyout situation, then I'm for it. If we're going to buyout Girardi, make a trade of forward depth for some young defensive help and part of trading Staal for value is that we have to cover the expansion slot with him, meaning trading him after the draft, then I'm fine with it.





    Quote Originally Posted by Future
    View Post

    His contract is tough but it's not like it's out of line for a lot of other veteran defensemen in this league.

    Mike Green - $6
    Boychuck - $6
    Erik Johnson - $6
    Markov - $5.75
    Enstrom - $5.75
    Niskanen - $5.75
    Staal - $5.7
    Sekera - $5.5
    Myers - $5.5
    Orpik - $5.5
    Petry - $5.5
    Goligoski - $5.475
    Wideman - $5.25
    Bogosian - $5.143

    In that group, I don't think he's all that out of place. He should probably fall in the Andrew MacDonald, Alexander Edler, Andy Greene range at $5m, but he's way better than these $3m guys. That's the likes of Stoner, Ference, Russell, Engelland, Hainsey. I mean, $3m is significantly less than what Radko Gudas makes...

    Staal might not quite fit in the above group (though I think he's better than a number of those guys), but he's certainly not in that latter group. So is his contract too high, yea, probably, but that's everyone who has ever been a UFA. But that doesn't mean his contract is some kind of albatross. It's in line with a lot of similar players.



    With Staal, the bigger issue is that he doesn't fit our system at all. He has zero offensive abilities, from his first pass, to joining the rush, to keeping plays alive in the offensive zone or getting shots on goal. He's OK defensively. He battles well against the wall and doesn't get beaten one on one very often. He's got ok physicality, although he doesn't clear the crease as well as I'd like.

    I have no doubt that there are guys making the same money he does in the league with his tenure, but most bring more than just a defensive game to the table. I mean, the guys around him that you put up there put up 30-40 points in addition to being adequate defensively, or like Myers, Orpik, etc, are viewed as bad contracts.
    I think one buyout and one trade is probably ideal for everyone, assuming you can't trade both of them.

    I'd still probably keep Staal, even though I know I'm in the minority on that.
    What are people's thoughts on buying out G and trading Staal but retaining some salary? Maybe $1.5 to put him at $4.2. That's a way easier pill for a team to swallow for what he brings (or doesn't bring), and like we said, teams are always looking for a steady, playoff-experienced veteran presence.





    Quote Originally Posted by Phil in Absentia
    View Post

    They have measurable negative impacts on nearly every game they play in.



    This is an even bigger misnomer, because none of those metrics take into account the full context of a game.

    I mean, the goal last night was Mac's responsibility, but it will still be used to show how G is a detriment.





    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanJesus
    View Post

    His contract is a dog, though. At best he's a $3M/year on a two year deal defender. Not a $5.7M per for 4 more years. Maybe if we retain half his salary we could move him. But that's going to mean $2.85M in dead space the next 4 years, and when added with a Girardi buyout you're looking at more dead space off the cap for the next 4 years. Wouldn't see a benefit until years 5-8 over just buying them both out.



    His contract is tough but it's not like it's out of line for a lot of other veteran defensemen in this league.

    Mike Green - $6
    Boychuck - $6
    Erik Johnson - $6
    Markov - $5.75
    Enstrom - $5.75
    Niskanen - $5.75
    Staal - $5.7
    Sekera - $5.5
    Myers - $5.5
    Orpik - $5.5
    Petry - $5.5
    Goligoski - $5.475
    Wideman - $5.25
    Bogosian - $5.143

    In that group, I don't think he's all that out of place. He should probably fall in the Andrew MacDonald, Alexander Edler, Andy Greene range at $5m, but he's way better than these $3m guys. That's the likes of Stoner, Ference, Russell, Engelland, Hainsey. I mean, $3m is significantly less than what Radko Gudas makes...

    Staal might not quite fit in the above group (though I think he's better than a number of those guys), but he's certainly not in that latter group. So is his contract too high, yea, probably, but that's everyone who has ever been a UFA. But that doesn't mean his contract is some kind of albatross. It's in line with a lot of similar players.
    "Minute eating defenseman" is as big a misnomer as there is in the NHL today. It says almost nothing about the quality of the player that can otherwise actually be scrutinized.

    If <insert coach here> thinks that Girardi is a 28:00 a night defender, and <insert other coach here> thinks he's a 12:00 a night defender, which is right? The guy who plays him more, simply because he plays him more? This makes absolutely no sense.

    They may be "minute-eating warriors", but they're not actually net positive players. They have measurable negative impacts on nearly every game they play in. You can rest your hopes on minute-eating, but it's a losing strategy in the long run.





    Quote Originally Posted by Dunny
    View Post

    Agree as well. You're essentially firing two, minute eating warriors and hiring a fat, lazy guy who is so woefully inept defensively he can't play 1st pairing minutes.



    If they ate minutes, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Sure, they're physical, although G is really starting to break down. But they can't defend well enough at this level and don't drive offense at all. Staal kills every offensive play he gets involved in. Girardi is actually better in that regard and is good at knowing when and executing a pinch to keep a play alive, but he doesn't have near the foot speed necessary to get back defensively. And he makes some really dumb, Miller-esque plays with the puck in the defensive zone at times.

    If our 3rd pair was Staal - Girardi, they were getting 14:00 per game and were making $5M combined, I'd be OK with it (so long as they rested Girardi 20 or so games over the season). But they're not. They're our 2/3 defenders. And they're pitiful at it.
Dave Rogers
Editor-in-chief, Cleared for Contact Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
http://clearedforcontact.com

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