Lost in all the anger and vitriol of last night’s brutal loss to the New Jersey Devils is a bigger problem for the New York Rangers. Marc Staal left the game in the third period with an apparent concussion following a hit by the Devils’ Reid Boucher. He did not return to the game and the Rangers had no comment on his condition. Staal slammed his helmet to the floor on the way back to the locker room, so one can assume this injury is bad. Not only would losing Staal for a lengthy period of time severely compromise the Rangers’ defensive depth, but it also presents a larger problem.
Staal missed 36 games during the 2011-12 season following a concussion, so a worst-case scenario for him is that he misses the same amount of time. His loss means that the Rangers do not have a player ready in the minor leagues or someone they can sign off the street to be the seventh defenseman on the roster. It also magnifies the fact that Michael Del Zotto and John Moore are in the doghouse of coach Alain Vigneault, have played awful hockey, and are consistently healthy scratches. Now, both will have to play every single game.
Here’s the dilemma for the Rangers as a result of the injury. It is no secret that the Rangers need to make a trade or two to become a better team; Del Zotto has been the subject of trade rumors for more than a month. Let’s assume Staal misses another 36 games. The NHL‘s trade deadline is Mar. 5, which is the date of the Rangers’ 63rd game. Sunday night marks the Rangers’ 30th game of the season, meaning Staal would return after the trade deadline. Should the worst-case scenario occur, and the Rangers do not have the ability to trade Del Zotto, or even Moore to upgrade the roster, the Rangers are stuck. General manager Glen Sather may need to get very creative as far as upgrading the roster.
Of course, the health of Staal is more important than making roster maneuvers. The Rangers need to hope his injury is not severe and can return to the lineup very soon. If not, not only is it a big blow to the Rangers, but they may not be able to trade one of their two underachieving defensemen in order make the team better.