New York Rangers: The Center Dilemma

Other than a stay at home defenseman, the New York Rangers will be looking to add a number one center at this season’s trade deadline. There are three names that come to mind with who the Rangers could acquire, two of which should be very familiar with you by now, if you have been following the online rumor mills; Brad Richards on Dallas or Paul Stastny on Colorado seem to be Glen Sather’s top targets, while the Rangers should not rule out winger Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers as a possibility, because let us remember, Sather only trades with familiar teams. But first, let’s take a look at the dilemma facing the Rangers, and that is which ever center they acquire will be set up for disaster.

It is not easy to succeed in New York, we all know that, but with such a testy and skeptical fan base of late, maybe the Rangers should just wait until the summer to make their move. We cannot forget Scott Gomez, who the Rangers traded two summers ago, to Montreal, a move which allowed the Rangers to afford signing Marian Gaborik. In Gomez’s first season as a Ranger, he scored 16 goals and put up 54 assists for 70 points. First line center numbers, wouldn’t you say? What did the fan base do? Booed. The next season, Gomez struggled and scored less, but still scored higher than his career average with 58 points. What did fans do then? Booed even louder. Granted, his contract was anything but appealing, but still, Gomez did exactly what he had been doing his whole career, but because Rangers fans cannot get it through their heads that players do not automatically score three times their career average after signing here, whoever the Rangers get will be doomed to fail, regardless of how they play. That said, here are the Rangers three most likely options for center:

Brad Richards (UFA after this season, 2010/11 salary: $7.8 million)

We all know that the Rangers want to bring Richards aboard, just like we all know there have been trade talks between the two teams. Because Dallas seems to want half the Rangers farm system in exchange for a player that we know is not going to sign there next season, talks were stalled. However, if the Rangers properly call their bluff, they can have him for cheap. I would offer Christensen, Gilroy, Grachev, and a 2nd round pick: take it or leave it. Gilroy is expendable, Grachev has not impressed, and Christensen needs a psychiatrist, so I would say the Rangers win that deal. Richards is the only center that can come to this team and spark right off the bat, because he is a star (he may even be able to jump-start Gaborik). As long as his concussion is not a serious issue, I think the Rangers will find a way to acquire him. Don’t be fooled, the Rangers will find a way to manage their cap space and rob Dallas.

Paul Stastny (Current contract: four more years, cap hit $6.6 million)

Because of the amount of money and years on his contract, I think the Rangers would stay away. There was a rumor last week that the Rangers wanted Stastny and Liles, but plans fell through. The Rangers would have had to add more than $10 million in salary with that deal, so I would say it is either one or the other. While Stastny is an upgrade over every center the Rangers have, because of his age, he would command a lot more in terms of youth (probably what Dallas wanted originally); I would not even know what to propose, even if just for fun—it’s a tricky situation.

Winger Option: Ales Hemsky (Current contract: one more year, cap hit $5 million)

Let me start off by saying that the only reason I even mention him is because I need a third player to throw in this preview, and because Sather has ties to the Oilers and loves reclamation projects. Hemsky is a walking injury who has never played a full season (he’s been in the league since 2002) and is coming off a year where he played only 22 games. Granted, he has been decent in his last few seasons, in regards to points-per-game, but would you really want him on a line with Gaborik? The Rangers would have to bring back Tie Domi for protection and hire an on-ice maid to sweep away the glass and bone chips. Hemsky would be fresh meat the minute he donned a jersey, and fans would never let him hear the end of it. But there is a bright side, he and Gaborik could keep each other company in the hospital.

Honorable mention: Keith Tkachuk

Just for nostalgia’s sake, what would a deadline be without a Tkachuk rumor?

All in all, the next two days should be a lot of fun, with the deadline coming at 3pm on Monday. You will notice I have made no predictions this year, just suggestions, because my accuracy rating usually comes in at about 10%, religiously every season. I do not see the Rangers just standing pat, even if it is the right thing to do. Sather is working on something big, it is just a matter of it falling through or not.