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.
Dan Girardi, who leads the NHL in average ice time, will have to continue playing nearly 30 minutes a game. You can expect the same from Ryan McDonagh as well. While their two performances are admirable, it is not in the Rangers best interest to have these two continue playing this amount of minutes every night, because sooner or later, they are going to run out of gas. Michael Del Zotto has completely turned it around this season, and Jeff Woywitka has been very steady and reliable while playing a simple game, but the Rangers need help, even with Anton Stralman stepping up and impressing with his vision in the last few games. Tim Erixon will no doubt be called up in time for Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, but still, they will need some insurance.
The Rangers are going to have to make a trade here, and it does not have to be a splash. Who is even out there on the market? That is a very good question. The first name that comes to mind would not even require a trade, and that would be to sign Bryan McCabe to a small contract, maybe around $1 million. However, there is a reason he was not brought back, and that is because his style does not fit Tortorella’s system. The Rangers, also, do not seem to want an older veteran, but rather, younger or middle-of-the-road guys with experience. Glen Sather will have to scour some of the lower-seeded teams in the league in order to find someone, and some potential candidates are listed below:
Sheldon Brookbank (ANH; $800,000): 29 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 37 PIM
Shane O’Brien (COL; $1,100,000): 32 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 P, 56 PIM
Brett Clark (TBL; $1,500,000) 31 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 P, 8 PIM
Scott Hannan (CGY; $1,000,000) 32 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, 16 PIM
Two of the four players listed are young, while the other two come with a ton of experience. The cheapest option would be Brookbank, who has been very steady with an even plus/minus rating, even on a terrible Anaheim Ducks squad. He has 226 games of NHL experience, and could be a good candidate to fill in now, as well as act as a spare once the injured return; he is someone who could then platoon with someone like Woywitka down the stretch. There is also O’Brien on Colorado, who is someone that I would love to see, as he can both hit and fight. He also has two seasons experience playing under John Tortorella back in Tampa Bay.
Now for the two veterans, which as I said earlier, is a road the Rangers might not want to do down. Clark is a very reliable guy to have on the back-line, throws a ton of hits and blocks shots like there’s no tomorrow, even at 35 years of age. Lastly, we have Scott Hannan, who comes with more than 800 games of experience, at only 32. I have not seen him play this season, so I cannot comment on his abilities now, but I used to love him in San Jose, and the price is right (and contract too, as he is a free agent after this season) and he could definitely help further enhance the stability of the Rangers defense.
I do not think the Rangers are going to hit the Panic Button here, nor should they. They have fought injuries all season and keep playing the same way. However, a time will come when they will need some insurance back there, because you just never know who will get injured next. They do not need a blockbuster here to help, and that is definitely a positive.