It finally happened. The trade that everyone has been waiting for just went down, and that was the New York Rangers acquiring Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first blockbuster of the off-season. There were many guesses as to whether or not it would take an overpayment to get him, but I held fast with Glen Sather saying it would either be a robbery, or he would not be acquired at all. The magician has just completed his latest trick, because the Rangers somehow managed to only send Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first round pick. The Rangers also received a third round pick and a defenseman back from Columbus. All told, the Rangers still have more than $13 million in cap space, with nearly a full roster, as the only two players awaiting to be re-signed are restricted free agents Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto. Glen Sather has put himself in a wonderful position here to acquire more, some believing that Shane Doan will be signed shortly. The Rangers are also expected to pursue a defenseman.
Las Vegas could probably get a betting pool together with odds set on which NHL free agent will be the proverbial domino, as in the one player who signs or gets traded that causes all other players and teams to finally act in the middle of what has been a very stagnant off-season. So far, we have had plenty of single dominoes, but no domino effect. Anyway, at least we finally have some major news to talk about, regarding the other star defenseman on the Nashville Predators, Shea Weber, and the little offer sheet situation he and his team are involved in. Let’s take a look at that, and more, as we go “Around the NHL”…
Since it’s now been a few days since I caused that melee on Twitter with a certain Rick Nash rumor, I thought that it was now okay to go ahead with another hockey post. I just want to say that it seemed more people actually approved of the experiment than disapproved, though there were plenty who felt the latter. It’s funny that the people I know on Twitter, whether it be through actually talking to them on a regular basis or just casually following (even those who were not aware of the nature of the plot) were not angry at all, yet all these people who just came out of the woodwork were quick to call me names and attack me. I was left with this lasting impression: the lower the IQ, the higher the overreaction. Okay, now we’re moving on, and ready to go “Around the NHL”…
With the New York Rangers already pretty much set with depth on their bottom-six, adding Jeff Halpern would seem like a puzzling move, unless there was more to it than meets the eye, of course. By adding Asham and Pyatt last week, they were replacements for previously departed players, but with Halpern, it may be a move to replace someone who is still on the roster. The Rangers are heavily involved with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rick Nash, and possibly the Anaheim Ducks for Bobby Ryan and Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. A deal for either of these players would most likely include, but is not limited to, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, or Brian Boyle. While Halpern is not as skilled as them, and is much older, it is still a solid pick-up for the fourth line.
Hockey fans are always waiting for dominoes to fall during times of player movement, and this year has been no different. The two biggest dominoes that have fallen this off-season so far areand who both decided on moving their talents to Minnesota. Another domino that fans have been waiting to fall for a while is in the trade market with Columbus . However, there is a another player that has only recently become very pronounced, with captain . A few months ago, it was unthinkable that Doan would even consider leaving the franchise he has called home since the beginning of his career, but it is now a very real possibility. With the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga still unsolved, Shane Doan is thinking of looking to go to places where the grass may be greener…or that even has grass.
So, for the second straight game, the New York Rangers fall victim to a rule that was apparently made up out of thin air. The first, came the other night against Chicago, when the Blackhawks took two penalties at the same time. Coach Joel Quenville was then given the option to skate down a man for four minutes or down two men for two minutes. He chose the former, of course, like any coach would, but has anyone ever even heard of this rule before, where the offending team is given the option? With the Rangers trailing in the period, it could have made all the difference to have a two-man advantage for a full two minutes. Now, tonight, against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they seem to have scored a goal in the fleeting moments of the second period. Michael Del Zotto cut towards the net with time expiring and shot the puck, and although it did indeed cross the line with .1 seconds remaining (which would have been the second time this season a Ranger player accomplished such a feat), it was ruled in the Toronto “War Room” that there was no time on the clock, and therefore, no goal. I’m not an expert, or maybe I just have poor eyesight, but take a look at the photo below and see for yourself. Was this a goal, yes or no?
For the past several games, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been showing a serious interest in the New York Rangers, so much so, that on Saturday in Philadelphia, their General Manager Scott Howson was in attendance as well. While no one knows exactly who they are interested in, or if the Rangers are even willing to make a deal, we do know that something is definitely brewing, because it is not often that a team’s GM tags along to scout a game. This leaves us to speculate on who exactly could be on the move within the next couple of weeks. There are only two players on the Blue Jackets that would even come remotely close to helping them, but each one comes with some serious baggage by means of an enormous contract. They are center Jeff Carter and left wing Rick Nash. Even though the Rangers sit in first place in the Eastern Conference, they are in no doubt in need of another offensive presence, yes, even after Gaborik and Richards seem to have broken out of their funk over this past weekend. But at what cost will the Rangers act?
Heading into this off-season, the New York Rangers find themselves in quite good shape when compared to the last few summers. The Rangers must establish a true first line in order to justify their investment in Marian Gaborik, whose disappointing 2010/11 campaign could have been attributed to injuries and lack of chemistry with players around him. He will, and must, look to regain his form found in the previous seasons.
Brad Richards is the only marquee free agent on the market when it comes to offensive players. Richards, 31, is the number one center the Rangers need if they would like to take their development one step further. The mentality of the Rangers’ youth movement is nice, but they need top line talent to win. Unfortunately, this top line talent does not exist anywhere in the organization outside of Marian Gaborik. Pairing Richards with Gaborik and Wojtek Wolski would give the Rangers a top line. Wolski is a question mark on that line, but given he gels with talented players we could see him have a breakout year.
The Rangers have two players in Chris Drury and Sean Avery who are both primed for buyouts. The Rangers cannot endure one additional season while carrying Drury’s 7+ million cap hit. They need to spend their money elsewhere in order to improve the club. Drury’s 3.7 million buyout hit will give them additional flexibility. When it comes to doghouse player Sean Avery, it does not make sense for the team to keep him around, unless he can reclaim past success, which is doubtful. Avery’s role with the Rangers has seemed to disappear and he has turned into more of a liability than anything else on the ice. Cutting his salary cap hit almost in half will give the Rangers an additional $1 million in spending money. In order to bypass buyout ramifications, the Rangers could also send Avery salary to Hartford, removing it entirely from the cap as well.
When it comes to other players on the free agent market, there is only one forward I would not steer clear of. Jamie Langenbrunner is a forward, who if used in a 3rd line role, could prove valuable to the club. The Rangers should take a long look at Langenbrunner. Despite his age, a team needs a few veterans sprinkled in if they want to find any type of success. Jan Hejda, a veteran defenseman from Columbus, can also help the Rangers if paired with youngster Micheal Del Zotto. The Rangers have had interest in bringing Hejda in for several years via trade with the Blue Jackets, but were never able to make a sensible deal. Now that Hejda is a UFA, a one or two year deal may make sense.
Stay: Anisimov, Boyle, Callahan, Christensen, Dubinsky, Fedotenko, Gaborik, Prust, Stepan, Wolski, Eminger,Girardi, McDonagh, Sauer, Staal, Biron, Lundqvist
Go: Avery, Drury, Prospal, Gilroy, McCabe
Your 2011-2012 New York Rangers
Salaries calculated through CapGeek and are noted in parenthesis next to the player’s name.
1st line: Marian Gaborik ($7.500m)- Brad Richards ($6.750m)- Wojtek Wolski ($3.800m)
2nd line: Ryan Callahan ($3.975m)- Derek Stepan ($0.875m)- Brandon Dubinsky ($3.975m)
3rd line: Jamie Langenbrunner ($2.300m)- Artem Anisimov ($1.350m)- Mats Zuccarello ($1.750m)
4th line: Brandon Prust ($0.800m)- Brian Boyle ($1.225m)- Ruslan Fedotenko ($1.250m)
Scratches: Erik Christensen ($0.925m) and Chris Drury ($3.716m)
1st pairing: Marc Staal ($3.975m)- Daniel Girardi ($3.325m)
2nd pairing: Ryan McDonagh ($1.300m)- Mike Sauer ($1.505m)
3rd pairing: Jan Hejda ($2.500m)- Michael Del Zotto ($1.087m)
Scratch: Steve Eminger ($0.650m)
Starting: Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875m)
Backup: Martin Biron ($0.875m)
Salary Cap: $62,500,000
Cap Payroll: $62,284,167
Cap Space (23-man roster): $215,833
[Note from Greg Caggiano] Even though Joe and I disagree about Brad Richards, I must say this looks like a decent line-up, or at least more so than last season’s. The three free agent moves he has made here are realistic and certainly not out of the question, though fans may be wary in bringing in another ex-Devil in Langenbrunner. But out of all three moves, I like that one the best. The players that he let go I agree with, though I would have added Christensen to the list.
According to Steve Zipay, there are some rumors floating around involving the New York Rangers and three others teams: the Columbus Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes, and Florida Panthers. It seems that every training camp, the Rangers are involved in something, but given they actually have cap space to work with now, this time around I would actually read into what is being said.
We all know the Rangers are looking for a top-flight center, my guess is because Derek Stepan may not pan out the way they are hoping for this season, or unless they want to send him down to develop more. The Rangers are also looking for an experienced defenseman, which Steve Eminger might not seem to get the job done as.
This will probably be the youngest defensive corps the Blueshirts have ever fielded. Aside from 32-year-old Michal Rozsival, it includes Michael Del Zotto (20), Marc Staal (23), Dan Girardi (26), Matt Gilroy (26), and a combination of Steve Eminger (27), Ryan McDonagh (20), Michael Sauer (23), and Pavel Valentenko (23). Of the last four mentioned, only two will make it, and the logical choice would be McDonagh or Valentenko and then Eminger. Although both of those younger players deserve it, it is not a good idea for the Rangers to have one of them sitting on the bench as a seventh defenseman, and having them split time does not make any sense either.
The Rangers could use an experienced defenseman, but who is really out there and available?
The name that I always like to bring up, and a name who seems to get involved on its own anyway, is Sheldon Souray. But this is a tough one– if the Rangers trade for him they would have to deal Rozsival, and if they do that, they will be right back at square one when it comes to veteran defensemen.
In getting to the teams that Zipay actually mentioned, there really isn’t an experienced defenseman on either that could help the Rangers. On Columbus, I would steer clear of Mike Commodore, but if there is a player that the Rangers may be interested in, it could be Jan Hejda. The 32-year-old defenseman has 264 games of NHL experience with Columbus and Edmonton and is a +23 for his career, even though he has played on some bad teams. His cap hit is only $2 million as well. For centermen, they have no one that could potentially be the Rangers top line center.
As for Phoenix being involved, this really should not come as a surprise to anyone since the two teams usually find a way to make a deal every season. The one legitimate rumor out there is Michael Sauer for Viktor Tikhonov, but this really does not help the Rangers in any way, because he is a winger. I would still make the trade, though, because if they send Sauer down he could be claimed on waivers and the Rangers might as well get something for him while they have the chance. In regards to Tikhonov, last year was his rookie campaign and he put up eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 61 games. He was also the Coyotes’ first round pick in 2008.
In getting to Florida, the name being thrown out there by Newsday is Stephen Weiss. Though he would be a good fit in the Rangers top six, the Panthers will in all likelihood want Dubinsky in return, and even though I have never been his biggest fan, I would not deal him because the Rangers will once again be right back where they started, and would need a center.
Aside from the Sauer deal, the only way the Rangers could work something out may be a three-way deal. The Blue Jackets had an interest in Sheldon Souray, according to one of the sources for Yahoo’s Fantasy Hockey updates, but if they don’t pull the trigger in getting him, perhaps they, along with the Rangers and Oilers, could pull off a trade.
The Rangers could send Michael Rozsival to Columbus for Jan Hejda and Steve Eminger to Edmonton for Sheldon Souray. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets send Mike Commodore to Edmonton and the Oilers send them a forward or a draft pick as well.
The Oilers have not hidden the fact that Souray is not welcome on the team, or will he play a game for them this season. This drops his price, because they have no leverage now. They get Commodore who makes less money and can be very physical, the Blue Jackets get an offensive defenseman in Rozsival (perhaps he could put up 40 points again in a market other than New York), and the Rangers get two experienced defensemen, one of whom can help their already improving powerplay, and the other to be a steady second or third pairing defenseman.
This is all just thinking out loud, and I really have no idea if these teams would ever make such a deal. But that’s the fun part about trade rumors– we get to speculate a little bit.