This Week in Wishful Thinking: Marc Staal

Back in the days of the old west, when the people were a bored and impressionable mass of lowly farmers, men used to roam the land offering tonics and cures. These men would make outlandish claims, appealing to the population's wildest imaginations. Their proclamations sounded too good to be true.

In retrospect, they were. The men selling their wares were flannel-mouthed liars trying to make a quick buck. Peddling false hope, they played into the restlessness of the townsfolk in a selfish attempt to increase their page views.

Well, they were after money. We're after page views.

Money isn't really an option since we're eating cardboard cupcakes every day of the week anyways. What's more true is that, right now, at this very moment in time, we're guilty of pulling at your heart strings. The title says it all. Plank and TCY are here to work you into a fervor over a player who has very little, if any, chance of donning a teal sweater next year. In all honesty, that may be worse than greed.

And the worst part? We're completely cognisant of it.

However, Marc Staal is a sexy name, and rightfully so. At just 23 years of age he's developing into one of the world's premier shut-down defensemen. He'd fit the Sharks like a glove. He's a better player than Hjalmarsson, he's a better player than Tomas Kaberle, he's a better player than Willie Mitchell, and he's a better player than Kevin Bieksa. If he was a UFA this year, it's entirely possible he would have made more money than any defenseman on the market.

We usually wouldn't even bring him up, assuming that a player of his caliber would be untouchable for any price. Young, elite shutdown defensemen don't exacly flow out the pipeline (unlike goalies, yuk yuk yuk*). But when the notoriously dependable David Pollak brings him up in a print article as a potential target after the Hjalmarsson fallout, there's some credence for discussion.

*With Dustin not blogging anymore, we're pretty committed to getting at least one "yuk yuk yuk" reference in per week.

So take a ride on the bullet train while we wax poetic about Marc Staal.

It's no secret that Rangers GM Glen Sather isn't the most skilled talent evaluator or shrewd negotiator when it comes to unrestricted free agents. Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, and most recently Derek Boogard, have all secured a very healthy standard of living thanks to Mr. Sather. He's willing to fork over the cookie dough to the kids before they finish their dinner.

But when it comes to his own RFA's, Sather is notoriously cheap (gasp!). He'll drag negotiations through the mud, refusing to give players close to fair market value. He knows that he has the upper hand in the negotiations, and he holds that card close to his chest.

For example, take last year's contract dispute with center Brandon Dubinsky. Now, Dubinsky isn't all world (like Staal), but he's a young player with upside and a decent track record. He scored 41 points in his contract year, and 40 the year prior. He likely deserved a contract in the $2MM to $2.5MM range, but Sather wouldn't budge.

The team gave Dubinsky a qualifying offer of $522,000 for one year. Dubinsky, one of the Rangers better offensive players, thought the offer unsatisfactory. Instead, he held out until training camp, finally agreeing to three year contract which pays him $1.85MM annually.

Staal looks to be in the same boat as Dubinsky was a year ago. During the draft in an interview with the New York Times, Sather described the gap between the two camps as a "chasm."

In Staal's situation, he's in exactly the same position Dubinsky was in last year. Where that's going to end up is anyone's imagination. He's a good player, we like him - just like Dubinsky: we'd like to have him back, we think he's got a long future, we're going to treat him fairly. Sometimes agents don't recognize that - leverage works both ways.

Although we know Sather is trying to keep the interview even keel, the situation is a bit different. Staal is a much better player, and this isn't a question of accepting a qualifying offer. Staal has reportedly already turned down a multi-year deal from the Rangers front office worth $3.5MM annually.

If Sather is smart, he'd pay Staal a figure closer to what he's looking for (likely around $4.5MM on average) But why, you ask, is Staal worth so much?

Because he's that good.

A quick look at his statistics in comparison to Rob Blake paints the picture of a player who, all at the ripe age of twenty three years old, would immediately be able to come in and play on the top pairing in San Jose.

Marc Staal vs. Rob Blake

Player GP G/60 PTS/60 GFON/60 GFOFF/60 GAON/60 GAOFF/60 Qualcomp PK TOI
08-09 Rob Blake
0.22 (2nd)
1.22 (1st)
2.82 (1st)
1.97 (1st)
1.83 (2nd)
1.97 (6th)
0.004 (2nd)
2:30 (2nd)

Marc Staal
0.09 (5th)
0.48 (6th)
2.11 (4th)
2.17 (3rd)
2.68 (7th)
2.25 (6th)
0.062 (1st)
2:56 (1st)
09-10 Rob Blake
0.11 (4th)
1.06 (2nd)
2.35 (6th)
2.89 (6th)
1.79 (2nd)
2.27 (2nd)
0.042 (1st)
2:53 (2nd)

Marc Staal
0.28 (1st)
1.02 (1st)
2.36 (4th)
2.43 (5th)
1.87 (2nd)
2.56 (1st)
0.139 (1st)
3:31 (2nd)

Last season Staal was, to put it lightly, a motherfucking shutdown machine. In all honesty, this guy could probably break down Brad Pitt's game at a bar and walk out of the establishment with Angelina Jolie on his arm without anyone thinking twice about it. He's a stalwart defensive defenseman with some offensive upside, able to outscore opposing team's top forwards every single night of the week. Premier. Young. Still improving. Huge frame (6'4, 209) with an opportunity to add weight and become even more physical than he already is.

The guy's a goddamn knockout punch to the kidneys of all those who feel the Sharks blueline could use an addition or two (raises hand). He's an upgrade and then some, giving Doug Wilson more than enough opportunity to bolster the offensive abilities of the entire roster.

Steady your loins, FTF faithful. Steady them.

If added on to San Jose's roster, Staal would likely split time between being paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Boyle. Either of these options are intriguing-- with Boyle he would be more than willing to log the herculean minutes San Jose's number one is known for, and with Vlasic, they would comprise one of the most elite young pairings in the entire league. Killing penalties, scoring chances, and the hearts of men and women alike, it would be a surprise to us if we would survive the summer without going crazy with the thought of watching them play together.

The way we see it, there are two possible ways to acquire Marc Staal. Neither of which, however, is really within the realm of possibility. In an exercise of futility, though, let's throw some darts at the wall and see what sticks.

One offer sheet, shaken but not stirred.

Although many thought that Doug Wilson wouldn't dip his tan toes into the pool of RFA's, he signed young defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four year, $14MM offer sheet. Wilson would have owed Chicago San Jose's first and third round picks in 2011 as compensation.

It never got that far, as Chicago matched the offer sheet. However, the attempt by Wilson told us a few things. First, he realizes that he needs to improve his blue line. That's a fact that helps us fall asleep when we rest our little heads on our pillows.

Second, it showed us that Wilson isn't afraid to get the guy he wants, even if it has to be done by unorthodox methods.

Shooting an offer sheet Staal's way would be an unorthodox method, to be certain. However, he'd need to up the dollars from Hjalmarsson's deal if he does indeed want Staal in San Jose. Staal's already turned down a $3.5MM deal from New York; an offer that low would essentially play into their hand. Staal would never sign at that price because he'd effectively just be signing the same contract that the Rangers offered him. They would match, plain and simple, getting the exact deal they wanted.

There are really two levels of compensation to play with here, under $4.63MM would be the first. Between that number and $6.18 would be the second. Anything under that first number would require the same compensation that signing Hjalmarsson would have. The second, and more realistic scenario, would require a first, a second and a third as compensation to New York.

New York would likely match anything under six without the bat of an eye. But is that the tipping point for them? Blue Shirt Banter thinks no, as the Rangers would likely still match the offer and put Wade Redden on waivers to free up the cap space. They have the cash on hand to make a player like Redden simply disappear, no madder how expensive he may be.

"The only type of offer sheet that would force the Rangers to walk away would be a 6.5+ million dollar deal. Mainly because they could waive Redden if they had to," Joe Fortunato of The Banter said over email. "But at the end of the day if you were willing to drop 2 first round picks a 2nd and a 3rd then it might be worth it just to let him go, because he isn't worth 6.5 million dollars at this point in his career."

An offersheet of this size would cause some pretty hefty ramifications on San Jose as well. Suppose Staal were to sign with San Jose. That $6MM would eat up all of the Sharks remaining cap space before Devin Setoguchi had even signed his new contract, believed to be in excess of $3MM annually.

It would likely mean the end of Clowe, Murray, Mitchell, and Huskins as San Jose Sharks. Although some may not be against that idea, remember: Wilson would be playing from a position of weakness, and would have to move these players for no where near their actual value. Moving Clowe for near nothing wouldn't be in the best interest of the franchise, and the cap issues would put Wilson in sticky cap situation to start next year.

The second option is the trade route. A DW specialty.

With an offer sheet essentially out of the running due to the fact that a) New York would match it immediately if it was a reasonable price and b) anything at an unreasonable price wouldn't be tendered by Doug Wilson due to a myriad of cap complications (along with his aversion to overpayment), the trade front would be the most likely possibility swimming in this sea of unlikely possibilities.

And at that point, you know every single piranha in the sea would be circling the New York carcass waiting to get a piece of Staal. He's a hot commodity, and Sather would definitely use that to his advantage.

According to Joe Fortunato of Blueshirt Banter, the price would be quite steep in order to acquire Staal via trade.

"For starters you would be looking at at least a first round pick, and then probably a top prospect. We wouldn't be looking for a defensive prospect in return perse, since we have like 12 in the system," Fortunato said via email. "Maybe one of your younger players like Pavelski instead of a prospect.  It sounds steep, but realize that Staal is 23 years old and is by far and away the best defenseman on the Rangers."

In reality, we think that even might be lowballing a bit. So let's play Devils Advocate for a moment. Pavelski just inked a four year deal which makes him a non-factor in trade negotiations, leaving Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi just about the only pieces Wilson has to work with. Although we believe in Setoguchi just as much as anybody out there in the city of San Jose, the fact that he barely cracked the twenty goal mark last season probably means he isn't as valuable right now as he would have been with a healthy season. Furthermore, the Sharks first round pick will likely be in the latter stages of the first round, making it just about similar to the 31-40 selection in the second round.

If we're Sather, we ask for more and use competition to bid up the price. Plank and TCY have debated this off-site for the last two days, finally coming to the conclusion that it takes at least Setoguchi, a first, and either McGinn/Ferriero + another first to get in the ballpark of where Staal's price would be. Staal is still going to be an RFA next season even if he signs a one-year deal, making him all the more attractive for potential teams who wish to acquire his services. The fact that he's one of the best shutdown defenseman in the League today makes him appealing too, for obvious reasons.

And at that point, no matter which way you cut it, Staal's contract still needs to be signed. $4.0MM is the absolute minimum you get him for following a trade, with $4.5-5.0MM a likely possibility. That cap hit, coupled with the loss of offensive talent in McGinn and Setoguchi, makes it very hard for you to make up the goal scoring capabilities up and down the entire roster.

It's a tough price, and one that Wilson would very likely be asked to pay. With that kind of offer hypothetically on the table, you have to figure he looks elsewhere and attempts to find a much more manageable solution to the defensive issues without sacrificing young offensive talent who will be relied upon to score goals next season (as well as into the future).

We are your sugar water. We are your tonic. We are the fleeting cure that will never materialize.

And, on some level, we almost wish that the near impossibility of this deal would have kept us out of the story editor and instead planted us in front of the XBox with a nice big bag of baked Cheetos.

But during these summer days, when news is running slower than Jean-Paul Jean-Paul at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, it's something we can kick around at the end of the work week.

Even if we'd be better suited to a life in limbo with Dom Cobb.

Go Sharks.