2010 NHL Free Agency: Rangers confident they can re-sign RFA Marc Staal

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marcstaalrfa.jpgIt’s been a nice summer for unrestricted free agents. While I know that the so-called “frenzy” often involves some chronic overspending, players such as Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis received contracts that were at least a little startling.

I can’t help but wonder how much restricted free agent defensemen will garner in a market that still seems to beckon for quality blueliners. One of the most interesting situations is that of New York Rangers D-man Marc Staal. Often-befuddled GM Glen Sather addressed some of the possible concerns in a story published by the team.

“Obviously we want to get Marc Staal signed,” said Sather. “If someone comes along and gives him an offer sheet, which is always possible, we’ll match it. But we are going to keep negotiating with him.”

With more than 30 years of experience as an NHL general manager, Sather understands that some negotiations are resolved quicker than others, as was the case this summer with Girardi, Prospal, Christensen, and Prust. He also understands that other summer negotiations can carry into training camp or beyond, although he doesn’t anticipate that being the case with Staal.

“We don’t want to see that happen,” said Sather. “I don’t think it serves the player any good to do something like that. As far as I’m concerned, it only puts him behind the eight-ball when he does come back and play.”

The negotiations might be complicated by three factors: 1) the Rangers’ own warped payroll, 2) the contracts given to unrestricted free agents and 3) the contracts handed out to other “blue chip” RFAs such as Erik Johnson. (Johnson has a higher ceiling, but both have produced somewhat similar results considering the No.1 draft pick’s golf cart-induced lost season.)

The first factor might be the most maddening. Look at the contract Sather handed Dan Girardi. How can Sather look Staal and/or his agent in the eye and say that he’s not worth considerably more than the $3.325 million annual cap hit the Rangers handed Girardi? Staal is younger and far more crucial to the team than his 26-year-old counterpart.

Sather seems aware of the possibility of an offer sheet, but why is he so sure that the Rangers could match it? If someone were to throw a Niklas Hjalmarsson-type deal at Staal, matching that $3.5 million cap hit would more or less bankrupt the Rangers’ tight salary cap situation. It’s pretty amazing that a team could spend that much money on a playoff-bubble-at-best type roster, but then again, Sather has been reduced to a sitcom in a suit for the last 10-plus years. (Every time he makes a decent deal it’s genuinely shocking).

When you consider the pronounced moves other Atlantic division teams made this summer, it could be another long season in Madison Square Garden.

Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

“We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

“I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

“I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

“Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.

Coming Tuesday: Dan Boyle, $4.5M healthy scratch

Brad Marchand, Dan Boyle

Few things say “Oops, bad signing” quite like putting a really expensive player in street clothes (without an injury being involved).

The Philadelphia Flyers set quite the high bar in that regard, but the New York Rangers can’t laugh too much. Not with Dan Boyle expected to be a healthy scratch against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

The word from the Bergen Record is that Dylan McIlrath will draw into the Rangers lineup in Boyle’s space, although Kevin Klein will take over Boyle’s role on the power play.

Let’s face the facts. At 39, Boyle may still boast some zip on offense, but maybe not enough to justify an everyday role.

It’s not the first time the Rangers have decided to make the difficult, awkward season to phase a big name out as he approaches age 40.

Even if it’s just a momentary situation, one cannot help but wonder if Boyle’s career is screeching to halt much like Martin St. Louis’ did in 2014-15 (though the latter’s decline was more sudden).

On the bright side, it sounds like Boyle has a side job lined up with Faith No More.