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.
‘Twas the last game before Christmas, and the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are both surging toward the highly anticipated Winter Classic on January 2nd. Both of these teams, the stars of HBO’s hit series 24/7, have given the network and fans alike plenty of entertainment. From a hockey marketing standpoint, the scenario could not be any better. The Flyers currently sit in first place in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, while the Rangers sit in second in the former, and fourth in the latter, just two points behind. Should the Blueshirts win tonight, they would take over first place, because they would have played one less game with one fewer loss, though both teams would have an identical number of wins.
Coming off a huge win over the Phoenix Coyotes, when Brad Richards scored the game-winning goal with .1 seconds remaining to give the New York Rangers the win and snap a two-game losing streak, the team finds themselves down a defenseman yet again, as Steve Eminger took a check and went shoulder first into the boards during the second period. While we do not know what exactly is wrong, we do know that he left the arena with his arm in a sling, and by looking at the replay, it seems as if he might have separated his shoulder. Severe or not, the Rangers are in a bind. Marc Staal has been out the entire season with post-concussion syndrome and Michael Sauer, more recently, suffered a concussion as well. The Rangers, who, at the beginning of the season, had one of the best defensive depths in the league, are now losing that by the game.
As much fuss is made about how young the New York Rangers’ defensive corp is, very rarely do we ever stop and look at just how young they really are. While this is definitely the correct step towards future progress, because the old man on last season’s team was Steve Eminger at a decrepit 27 years old, the Rangers, at times, were affected by the youth on the back-line, which was expected by the coaching staff. While endless glaring errors were avoided—the players seemed to learn from their mistakes very quickly, with the exception of Michael Del Zotto—there was a desperate cry for a veteran defenseman later in the season. The Rangers brought in Bryan McCabe who was a very average acquisition, and while I would have kept him around this season at a cheap price, he will not be returning to Broadway.
So once again, the Rangers find themselves needing that veteran presence on the blueline, one that can be a seventh defenseman to come in and give the younger guys a breather, and to mentor the rookies and other youngsters still in the learning process. Below is a list of defenseman who will/might be on the Rangers next season. The first four are players who are a lock, while the next five players have a chance for those final two spots (I do not consider Gilroy a lock, because I do not think he will be back at all). It also gives their age as of today, and below that is the average age of the defensemen:
- Dan Girardi: 27
- Marc Staal: 24
- Michael Sauer: 23
- Ryan McDonagh: 21
- Matt Gilroy: 26
- Steve Eminger: 27
- Michael Del Zotto: 21
- Tim Erixon: 20
- Pavel Valentenko: 23
- Average age: 23.5 (Holy sh*t!)
After witnessing the amount of old players the Rangers brought in the past, this is refreshing and will even put a smile on your face. However, if the Rangers hope to actually go far in the playoffs, they will need some stability. Not that bringing in a seventh defenseman will guarantee playoff rounds, but it will help guide them for the future. The one player out there that I would bring in for that is someone who we know can do it, because he has done it in the past for this very team, and that is Jason Strudwick. Before you laugh, keep in mind that Marc Staal was his defensive partner for the majority of the 2007/08 season, and I would surmise that his tutelage worked out rather well.
Strudwick would be brought in to play only about 30 games, and he will be even more valuable off the ice than on it. We all remember how good he was with such a young team after the lockout, almost like another coach out there in the middle of a game. He could also wear the alternate captain’s “A” (like he did in 2005/06), because he brings more leadership to the table than anyone else. He also would not be stealing the spot of a rookie. Because he would be only a seventh, the other two spots can be taken by younger defensemen out of camp, which I believe will be Tim Erixon and Michael Del Zotto, who will be given another chance. Gilroy will most likely not be qualified and Eminger will not be brought back.
The Rangers also need to consider cost here, being that they will be strapped for cash trying to lock up Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Artem Anisimov, while wanting to bring back Brian Boyle and add one or two upper-tier free agents. Strudwick made only $725,000 last season, and I think that would be a fair price to offer him for this year. We know he loves New York and we know he can handle mentoring young players, so why not bring him back another time?
The New York Rangers made their first move of the summer this afternoon, when they dealt two 2nd round picks and prospect Roman Horak to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a very promising defensive prospect in Tim Erixon, who signed a contract with the Rangers immediately after the trade, to beat the 5 pm deadline he was not going to reach with Calgary. I do not know much about Erixon, but many have compared him to current Rangers’ defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
The son of former Ranger Jan Erixon (he was born in New York, and watched his dad play with the Blueshirts), Tim was drafted in the first round (23rd overall) in 2009, and has played in the Swedish Elite League since then. His totals in four seasons with the SEL are 140 games played, with 14 goals and 30 assists. Hockey’s Future had this to say about him in April:
Calgary’s most recent first round draft pick has emerged as one of the organization’s top overall prospects. Tim Erixon turned in another strong season for Skelleftea, averaging almost 20 minutes of ice time per game and playing in all situations in his third SEL season. His point production and role have increased each season and the 20-year-old defenseman finished this one with five goals and 19 assists in 48 games. His 24 points ranked second among defenders, trailing only David Rundblad’s (OTT) explosive season.
Next season’s training camp ought to prove very exciting because of the many young defensemen the Rangers have, in addition to who is already on the roster. This bold move could prove ominous for Michael Del Zotto, and perhaps the Rangers will look to trade him, since analysts across the board are saying that Erixon is NHL ready. It is really hard to get excited about a hockey trade with temperatures above 90 degrees where I am, but this is a solid move, and I think Erixon will improve the team with his speed, and further reinforce a very strong, young, Rangers’ defensive corp.