No deal, still, for Staal, Rangers

With fewer than 10 days remaining before Rangers training camp, Marc Staal still doesn’t have a contract. The Blueshirts’ top defenseman is hoping for a big raise off the $765,000 he made in the final year of his entry-level deal, but the Rangers have been hesitant to meet his demands. With both sides at a stalemate, what's next?

Most believe Staal will still suit up for the first game this season since neither side has anything to gain by Staal missing game time. But between now and then, they still have to hammer out a contract.

As a restricted free agent, another team could ink Staal to an offer sheet and either force the Rangers’ hand or steal him away. That's unlikely though, since an offer hasn't come yet and most teams begin training camp in just a few days. The compensation for inking a restricted free agent makes it even more unlikely.

If teams decline to match an offer sheet signed by one of their restricted free agents, they'll receive steep compensation in the form of draft picks from the team that issued the offer. Here’s how the RFA compensation broke down for the 2009-10 season (I couldn’t find 2011, if anyone has it, I would love to know):

$994,433 or below - No Compensation

$994,434 - $1,506,717 - 2010 3rd round pick

$1506,718 - $3,013,433 - 2010 2nd round pick

$3,013,433 - $4,520,150 - 2010 1st and 3rd round pick

$4,520,151 - $6,026,867 - 2010 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick

$6,026,868 - $7,533,584 - 2010 1st, 2nd, 3rd round picks and 2011 1st round pick

Over $7,533,584 - 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 1st round picks.

GM Glen Sather has made it clear that the Rangers will match any offer sheet, but in Staal’s case, assuming he’s even interested in leaving the Rangers, he’s unlikely to top that third tier. Why? Because first round picks are extremely valuable in today’s NHL and no one wants to be the next Toronto Maple Leafs and give up their chance at a future star like Tyler Seguin and shell out a contract that’s going to be over market value. And this is particularly true because most of the teams with the cap space to make Staal a solid offer have a great chance of finishing the season with a top-five pick.

The Rangers currently sit about $84K over the cap heading into training camp, but after a few cuts – and Wade Redden’s $6.5M albatross is the most likely candidate to leave the team one way or another – they’ll have the cash to afford Staal.

In terms of the new CBA rules we saw hammered out during the Kovalchuk contract drama, they don’t seem likely to apply. While Staal could command a deal over five years, without any significant leverage besides the threat of a hold out, it’s very doubtful the average salary for his three highest-paid years would top the $5.75M figure named in the amendment.

One last piece of food for thought: Staal may be worth a huge long-term deal, and while it may not come this season, the D-man could get rich very soon. Among players that logged at least 60 games last season, Staal ranked fourth in the NHL in Corsi Relative to Quality of Competition, ahead of Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith.

Before you get turned off by a new stat, it’s pretty simple to understand. Corsi measures the difference in shots generated for and against a player’s team while he’s on the ice. And Quality of Competition simply rates the quality of opponent he faces on his shifts. Add the two together and you can see that Staal is an elite weapon in today’s NHL. Now will he command elite cash?

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