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March 24, 2019
NHL News and Notes
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
People who claim Staal is a disappointment need to calm down. I’ve said it before, but this kid’s only limitations are self-imposed. He could be an absolute monster. Ask the Red Wings.
Had Staal hit free agency, teams would have been lining up to throw money at him. He would have easily fetched $4.5 million or higher per season. Clubs could have offered up to $5.2 million with the only compensation being a first-, second-, and third-round pick. Considering Staal is a former first-rounder, teams really would have been surrendering only a second and third to get him. Any offers over $5.2 would warrant two first-rounders along with the second and third.
By signing Staal early, Shero saved himself at least $500,000 a year, but it's probably closer to $1.2 million. Locking up Staal for four years at such an affordable price secures a key asset and gives Shero greater leverage in future trade talks. The contract only increases Staal’s value.
At the moment, Shero insists he sees Staal as an important part of the franchise’s future, and he has no intention of trading him. But that could always change. And if it ever does, Shero, by removing any ambiguity about Staal’s contract, has insured he’ll get the best return possible.
Listen, in an ideal world, I’d want the Pens to keep Crosby, Malkin, and Staal. Championships are built up the middle. Unfortunately, the salary cap prohibits such abundance. And it’s a whole hell of a lot easier finding third-line centers than first-line wingers.
Truth be told, now that Staal is set at $4 million, the best move may be trading Malkin. This is Sid’s team. He isn’t going anywhere. If Staal can develop into a second-line center, Malkin could bring the bodies needed to strengthen the wings and patch any holes along the blue line, not to mention enough draft picks to replenish the system.
Otherwise, the Pens could just roll with the three centers and continue to sign the Miroslav Satans and Ruslan Fedotenkos of the world while praying some unheralded prospect blossoms into a 40-goal man. Good luck with that.
Because of that senseless monkeyshine, Eric Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, and Dany Heatley will all be going to Montreal, while Phil Kessel, Mike Richards, and Patrik Elias stay home. At least it spares them the indignity of taking part in the mid-season debacle.
And once more, play the All-Star Game outside. Make it the Winter Classic. Give it some relevancy. Done and done.
Q. What defenseman, past or present, has presented you with your biggest challenge?
RICK NASH: I'm going to say Chris Pronger. Pretty tough guy to play against. Adam Foote has been really tough. It was nice when we had him on our team. You know, usually the bigger, stronger guys are usually the guys I find tough to play against.
Q. Beyond the numbers, can you describe the effect that Steve Mason has had on the Blue Jackets' confidence this season.
RICK NASH: Yeah, I mean, he's been great. He's such a solid goalie. He looks like a 10-year veteran back there. He's calm. He's confident. When your goalie plays that way and gives you a chance to win every night, confidence just runs through the team.
Q. I just read you may not play this weekend. I know you don't want to divulge what the injury is, but can you kind of go through what happened, how you're feeling, and if you have a timetable for yourself.
RICK NASH: Yeah, I just went awkward into the boards in Detroit. Right now it's day to day. Today was a good day. I’m feeling good.
It's just one of those things where you don't want to come back for one game and then miss another week. So we're just going to take it a little slow and hopefully after the weekend, early next week, I'll be back at it.
Q. Did you think you were going to miss time?
RICK NASH: Initially, no. I was ready to go back on the ice. Then I saw the doctors. You know, they recommended I just sit it out.
Q. Last year you had a hat trick in a game, scored 12 seconds into the game in the All-Star Game, Eric Staal got the MVP. Are you still a little bitter about that? Are you going for the MVP this year?
RICK NASH: I don't know. Maybe I'm not going to try and maybe I will. Doesn't the media pick that? You'd have to ask all them. I don't know, it is what it is. Not a big deal. It's only the All-Star Game, you know.
Q. The question was asked before about Mason. Has he enabled, do you think, the defensemen on the team to feel confident and comfortable, too, that maybe they're playing better as a result?
RICK NASH: Yeah. I mean, one thing I notice with him is he's unbelievable at playing the puck. He's actually a big guy and he's really good. I think that helps out a lot with the defensemen.
You know, just knowing that he's so solid back there, he's so confident in his game, he's so calm, I think it makes everyone around him, the defensemen that he's closest to, play the same way.
Q. Do you think he could have been an All-Star or could still be if Luongo isn't healthy enough to go?
RICK NASH: Yeah. I mean, I think he's got the numbers. He's played well enough. You know, in saying that, he's still only 20 or 21 years old. He's going to be playing tons to come. I wouldn't worry about it if I were him.
Q. With your injury, how painful was it when you went into the boards? There was no noticeable limp or anything like that, but it is in the lower body area.
RICK NASH: Yeah, I mean, it's not too painful. It gets stiff mornings. Just like any injury, you get it warmed up, it feels better.
It's just something where the doctors don't want me to go out and make it worse. Right now they just want to make sure everything's all right.
Q. Think you could play, if you had to? If you were in a playoff stretch, could you play?
RICK NASH: I mean, I would probably play with broken bones. I'm sure guys have. I think anyone would say that if it was in a do-or-die situation, which we are kind of in to make the playoffs. I'm not going to go against the doctors' judgment. They're the professionals. Once they say I'm good to go, I'll go.
Q. Is it a different feeling right now in Columbus; there's that feeling of hope for the second half of the season amongst the fans, the city, the guys in the room, that you're right there, and this is actually really possible?
RICK NASH: Yeah, I mean, it's really felt like that for the first time. Every time we've always had a chance. This time we're here. Coming into the middle of January, we're three points out. So, I mean, the next couple weeks are pretty big for us. These next seven games before the All-Star break, it's going to dictate where we stand going into that break. We've got a chance to win every single night. I think that's all you can ask from a team. We know we have it now.
Q. You assumed the captaincy late last season. This is essentially your first full season with it. I'm wondering how that has changed things for you, if it has at all, so far this year?
RICK NASH: I mean, there's more responsibilities, making sure everyone shows up to play. I think a lot more eyes are on you. In saying that, I didn't really want to change the player I was or the person I was 'cause that's what got me there.
Q. Do you speak up more in the dressing room or anything like that?
RICK NASH: I don't know. Most of the guys knew me before I was the captain. I think if I get the 'C' on my jersey, I stand up, start yelling, screaming, calling guys out, things like that, it's not going to be real.
In saying that, I know that is my job now. I look at myself to lead by example on the ice. If something does need to be said, I'll stand up and say it.
Q. I know you are asked every year about the playoffs obviously in Columbus, so it's not new for you. Do you get the sense that this year is different somehow from the previous years in terms of the team's chances?
RICK NASH: Yeah, I mean, it does feel different. We go into any building now, we got a chance to win. Before, you go into places like Detroit, San Jose, Colorado, we just kind of felt like we couldn't pull it together.
But now we got the depth on the team. If we can all get healthy, I think we've got a better chance.
Q. Is that depth being tested now with some of the injuries you have gone through? You're missing a bunch of guys that have contributed for you offensively this year.
RICK NASH: Yeah, I think we're missing seven or eight regulars. We got a couple of guys that are obviously banged up. I'm sure every team has them as well. This is a chance for the young guys to step up, our depth from Syracuse to show up, and this is where we need them most.
Q. Going back to the last All-Star Game, you were a little upset about it. Were you a little shocked you didn't get the MVP last year?
RICK NASH: I don't know. I think the year before I had two points and I think someone else had four points, our team won, and the losing team guy got it. I think last year they said the reason I didn't get it was because my team lost. It was kind of confusing. It is what it is. I didn't lose any sleep over it. The media picks it. That's what they thought.
Q. I know probably for you it would maybe be a little bit different if the game were in Toronto instead of Montréal. But Montréal is such a hotbed. It's a huge celebration for the Montréal Canadiens, for the city. What do you think that All-Star weekend is going to be like? Not to disparage anything against Atlanta, but Montréal is a different place in terms of hockey. Do you think it's going to be one of those special, memorable weekends?
RICK NASH: Sure. I think it's going to be crazy. Every All-Star Game I've been to has been crazy. Minnesota was my first one, and it was pretty nice. But going to a Canadian city where hockey is pretty much religion and life, it's going to be unbelievable with all the celebrations, the hundred years, things like that. It's going to be definitely a special weekend. I think the city's going to be packed.