Welcome to Re-Sign or Resign, a new segment covering the pros and cons of Detroit’s pending UFAs. We’ll be taking a closer look at each UFA while going over two schools of thought: re-signing the player, or letting him run free into the sunset. So far, we’ve covered Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, and Valtteri Filppula. Today’s name of note is defenseman Marc Staal.
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the Red Wings won the trade.
At the start of the 2020-21 season, Marc Staal was acquired from the New York Rangers along with a 2021 2nd round pick for future considerations. Staal played some of the best hockey he’s played in years alongside Troy Stecher. While a lot of the numbers were inflated due to Stecher, he wasn’t nearly as bad as he was projected to be. He did a serviceable job as the token veteran defenseman, filling in where the Jonathan Ericssons and Trevor Daleys of yore once did.
But where does Staal fit with the Red Wings’ future? Is he a good option for a depth defenseman, or should the Red Wings look for options elsewhere?
It can be easy to just say “oh, we’ll find our solution somewhere else”. Sure, there will be a good amount of 30-plus-year-old defensemen on the free agency market come 2021. But it’s hard to tell if they’ll fit in with the chemistry of this roster. Staal appears to have done a decent enough job of that. In fact, he’s made such a good impression that there are already rumors abuzz about a potential new contract in Hockeytown.
Staal also appears to have retained some of that offensive edge he had in New York:
When he’s on, he’s on. In an isolated role, he’s perfectly capable of doing damage on the offensive end. If the Wings isolate Staal like he’s an older Tyson Barrie, they can utilize him as a solid offensive defenseman to generate some more scoring.
Plus, the guy’s a great leader on the ice.
“There’s times during the season or during a game where things can start getting away from you,” Staal said. “I’ve been on teams where maybe it doesn’t go well for you the first 20 (games) and that’s that, you kind of fold up and start to think about the next (season). I was just trying to make sure we stayed consistent and (kept) working hard no matter what the circumstance was. I’ve been around a while, so any hope or positivity I can bring throughout a game I was willing to do that.” – Marc Staal could help fill Red Wings’ need for left-shooting D-men | Ansar Khan, MLive
When ranking defensemen by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Staal was the eighth-worst defenseman in the league. His team is more likely to lose when he plays and his linemates suffer for it. When isolating Stecher and Staal’s impacts on the ice, it’s quite clear that Stecher carried the pairing. This should not come as a surprise, as Staal has been billed as one of the worst defensemen in the league. Staal made a lot of head-scratching decisions this last season. This puzzling move is a perfect encapsulation of Staal’s play for the majority of the season. He’s nowhere near his career highs and it’s entirely possible that his numbers could look worse in an 82-game season.
Just in case there was any confusion on who is driving the success of the Stecher-Staal pair, via NST line tool:
Stecher-Staal ➡️ 52.82 xGF% (259 TOI)
Stecher w/o Staal ➡️ 58.04 xGF% (53 TOI)
Staal w/o Stecher ➡️ 37.47 xGF% (161 TOI)
— Cameron (@CameronKuom) March 7, 2021
If Staal is re-signed, there’s a possibility that he could be paired with Moritz Seider. This would be the worst possible scenario for Seider and his development. A rookie shouldn’t be expected to carry his defensive pairing, no matter how talented he may be. When paired with a liability like Staal, Seider will be more prone to hasty mistakes and costly errors. His confidence may be affected as a result. There’s little benefit to re-signing Staal if he’s going to serve as a player Seider should model his game after.
Marc Staal’s fate will ultimately depend on how the team chooses to deploy him. If they’re planning on using him in a limited fashion as an offensive specialist, a welcome return on an affordable deal is appealing. If the Wings want to use him as a mentor or on Seider’s line, they might want to look for help elsewhere. Personally, I think he’d be great in a limited role as a 6D or 7D. Deploy him in mostly offensive scenarios and keep him as far away from Seider as possible. If a young defenseman outplays him, move him out of the roster or rotate him in and out as needed. Ultimately, I think Marc Staal can play a valuable role with this team if he’s properly utilized.