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Staal's focus now on hockey alone

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Rangers, Staal Agree to Terms

By Jim Cerny,

One day after agreeing to a new multiyear contract with the Rangers -- and one day before the Blueshirts officially open up training camp -- Marc Staal spent Thursday getting situated in New York and quickly preparing for his fourth NHL season.

“The last two to three weeks we were pretty close to both sides being happy and it was just a matter of getting down to the small details,” Staal said of his new contract. “I didn’t want to miss any time at training camp, and, fortunately, in the end I got a deal I was happy and comfortable with, and I am sure they did, too.”

A prime member of the youthful core of players making up the foundation of the Rangers, Staal, 23, has been a steady defenseman for the club since entering the league in 2007-08. Last year he established career-highs across the board with eight goals, 19 assists, 27 points, and a plus-11 plus/minus mark.

Rangers head coach John Tortorella said he feels Marc Staal made big strides as an all-around defenseman toward the end of the 2009-10 season and demonstrated a scoring potential that the coaching staff will continue to help him develop.
His improving play offensively, coupled with his role as the team’s shut-down defenseman in its own end, make Staal one of the truly key players on the roster. That he avoided missing any part of training camp is seen as vital to the Rangers.

“He’s a big piece to the team now and in the future,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Staal. “From a coach’s point of view, to have one of your top players and a big part of your core not miss anything, especially as a 23-year-old defenseman, that’s a very important thing.”

Tortorella expects big things from Staal this coming year. In particular, the coach believes that Staal has just scratched the surface as to what he can provide offensively from the blueline.

“I think at the end of last year Staalsie felt a lot more comfortable with our style of play, our teaching of coverages and everything to deal with the defensive position, and it became more instinctive for him,” said Tortorella. “Hopefully he just allows himself to play (this season) because that’s what he did (late last season). That’s when he really started taking off as an all-around defenseman. He feels he has more offense to bring, and we want him to do that.”

Signing a long-term deal has given Staal a sense of security moving forward -- knowing that he only needs to focus on hockey the next several years. He believes that will be beneficial to his continuing evolution as player.

“I wanted to be back here, and then got the security that I wanted,” said Staal. “I know I get to spend five more years in New York and the next five years I don’t have to worry about the contract or being in a contract year or going through another negotiation. I just get to concentrate on improving, being better, and to be the best player I can be.”

Staal, who had been working out and scrimmaging back home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with several NHL players, including his brothers Eric and Jordan, will join his teammates on the ice Friday morning for the start of training camp.

“I think we had some good signings that will help our team to only improve from last year, and we were right there at the end of the year,” Staal said. “I am pretty excited to see what happens (this season).”
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