| The Detroit News
Detroit — Marc Staal was a bit floored when initially told the New York Rangers, the only team Staal had played for, were trading him.
The news shook him, as you’d expect. But after being told it was to the Red Wings, who happened to have the NHL’s worst record last season, and after talking to Red Wings officials, Staal was suddenly excited.
“I didn’t really have much of a heads-up, kind of just called and told I was on the way to Detroit,” Staal said Tuesday during a Zoom call with the media, his first comments since the trade. “Obviously it’s surprising and shocking when it happens. This is the only place I’ve been in my whole career and has been home for a long time.
“After the shock wore off and I started thinking about it more, talked to the coaching staff and (general manager) Steve (Yzerman), that shock turned more into excitement. You don’t know when the season will get going, but I’m excited about getting to Detroit and getting an opportunity for a fresh start and to play somewhere different.
“It’s going to be great.”
Staal, in the final year of his contract, was traded along with a 2021 second-round pick to the Wings for future considerations last month.
The Rangers were salary cap strapped and needed some sort of relief. Staal, who’d been in trade rumors for years, was a salary cap casualty.
“It was coming to a close in New York, whether it was now or the (trade) deadline or in the summer. I could see that window kind of closing for a while now,” Staal said. “Getting to go to Detroit where I’ll get a good opportunity to play and a fresh start, and a new building, a new fan base, I am excited.”
Staal will fit in well with the Wings as a veteran who is capable of playing major minutes in one of the top two pairings, and will be a strong defensive conscience on a team that struggled defensively.
Yzerman, as he did with the other free agents the Wings have signed in the last week, told Staal about the possibilities awaiting him in Detroit.
“We had a real good talk,” Staal said. “I feel a lot more comfortable about where the team is heading and going to an outstanding franchise, beautiful new rink, and it’s an Original Six (franchise).
“So I get to go from one great franchise to the next and I’m excited to be part of that. It’s a pretty good situation that I’m walking into.”
Going from a playoff team like the Rangers — who are adding No. 1 overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere — to the Wings doesn’t bother Staal, who saw how quickly a rebuild can work.
The Rangers missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons before making this year’s 24-team postseason, having been nine games above .500 (37-28-5) when the season was paused due to the pandemic.
“I don’t think you’re ever too far from winning,” Staal said. “I wasn’t there (Detroit) last year, obviously, so I can’t speak on what was going on with the team, but every time we played them they were a very detailed team that wasn’t easy to beat by any means. They just need to get over the hump where success in winning games becomes a regularity.
“You’re never as far off as you think and you’re never as far off from losing as you think. They have some very good young players and I’ve seen the (free agent) signings of the last couple weeks, so I’m coming in there and ready to help this team get better and win games.”
Staal has been training since early summer when the Rangers began workouts for their qualifying round series against Carolina (the Hurricanes swept the Rangers in three games).
Staal believes it was more difficult to train for the league’s restart than it will be for this coming season — whenever that’ll begin.
“It was harder pre-bubble because that was a definite unknown,” Staal said. “You don’t know what’ll happen with this season, but we kind of have a target date of Jan. 1, though it might change as you go. But as far as off-ice conditioning, we can build up to that date. That’s kind of what everyone is doing and getting ready for camp in mid-December. That’s how I’m treating it.”