The New York Rangers already have one of the league’s top offenses and now it should be even better.
The club has acquired five-time 30-goal scorer Eric Staal ahead of Monday night’s home matchup with the surging Columbus Blue Jackets.
Coverage begins on FOX Sports Ohio at 6:30 p.m.
New York (36-20-6) picked up Staal from Carolina on Sunday for center Aleksi Saarela, who is currently playing in his native Finland, and the Rangers’ second-round selections in each of the next two drafts. Staal had spent his entire 12-year career with the Hurricanes and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, once the final year of his seven-year, $55.75 million contract expires.
The former Hurricanes captain has 10 goals and 23 assists in 63 games this season. The Rangers, who average 2.8 goals, could use a boost since former Columbus star Rick Nash is out with a knee injury.
Staal leaves behind one brother in Carolina, Jordan Staal, and will be united with another brother, Marc, who plays defense for the Rangers.
”We felt like he was one of the best, if not the best, player available on the market to give us what we’re looking for in our top nine,” Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said. ”And that’s why we made the move.”
New York will see a familiar face Monday in Columbus coach John Tortorella. Two seasons ago, the Rangers and Vancouver ended up with what amounted to a swap of coaches when Tortorella took over the Canucks and Alain Vigneault became Rangers coach. The combative Tortorella had spent the previous five seasons with New York, leading the club to the brink of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011-12 before he was fired after the next season.
He made his return to the Garden on Nov. 30, 2013 in Vancouver’s 5-2 loss, with Rangers fans chanting “Tor-tor-ella” as the final minutes ticked down. He also lost to New York 3-1 on April 1, 2014, in his only Canucks season before they fired him.
Now he’s back with Columbus, which seeks its second three-game win streak and is enjoying a 9-2-3 run in its last 14 games following Saturday’s 4-3 shootout victory over Florida. The Blue Jackets were outshot 13-1 in the first period and 24-11 after two but trailed just 2-1 heading into the third before Seth Jones and Brandon Saad scored.
”We talked about it between the first and second period, about how well we have played for quite awhile,” Tortorella said. ”There was no sense in losing our mind over it. We were bad. But it was still just 1-0 at that point in time.”
The Blue Jackets (26-29-8) now get to measure themselves against an opponent they have lost five straight against. The Rangers won twice in October by an aggregate score of 9-4 before Columbus fired Todd Richards and hired Tortorella.
New York is also surging by going 9-2-1 since Feb. 4 after completing a 2-1-0 trip with Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Dallas on Kevin Klein’s goal with 2:53 left. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 36 shots two nights after a 35-save effort in a 2-1 win over St. Louis.
“Last two buildings are really tough buildings that we came into,” Vigneault said. “We played real solid tonight when they tied it up, we had a real strong push right after, got the game-winner. There’s no doubt that we got some solid goaltending in these two games.”
The Rangers have never faced rookie Joonas Korpisalo, who is 9-2-2 with a 2.42 goals-against average in his last 13 starts. Lundqvist has posted a 1.78 GAA in winning his last five starts versus the Blue Jackets.