February 2007

In his first trade on deadline day, Glen Sather shuffled the deck. With his second trade, Sather played seller as he traded away Pascal Dupuis and a 2007 third round draft pick to the Atlanta Thrashers for RW Alex Bourret – the Thrashers 1st round draft pick (16th overall) in the 2005 NHL Draft.

The 20-year-old Bourret is 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds. The native of Drummondville, Quebec has been playing with Atlanta’s AHL affiliate. With the Chicago Wolves, he scored 11 goals and 21 assists with 46 PIM in 45 games.

While Bourret does not have classic NHL size, he does not shy away from physical play while showing a scorer’s touch in the QMJHL. In four seasons in Junior hockey (with three different teams), Bourret tallied 110 goals and 181 assists with 472 PIM.

“Alex is a high level prospect we are very excited about adding to our organization,” said Rangers Vice President of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager Don Maloney said on the Rangers web site. ” We had him rated very highly at the 2005 draft and had we not traded up to get Marc Staal, he likely would have been our selection.”

Bourret was a player that I touted as a potential Rangers draft pick in my 2005 Rangers Draft Preview that I wrote during my days at Ranger Fan Central. Here is what I wrote about Bourret back in June 2005.

Alex Bourret – Center

ISS: 14 – THN: 10 – CSS: 17NA – RLR: 13 – McK: 6.

2004/2005 Team: Lewiston (QMJHL). Height: 5-9 ½. Weight: 209.

2004/2005 Stats: 65 games-31 goals-55 assists-86 points-172 PIM.

With the salary cap cramping the Rangers style of throwing money and their problems, the team will have to find ways to win through the draft. That is where Bourret steps in. Despite his short stature, Bourret packs about 210 pounds of TNT into his body. ISS says “he is built like a tank, and hits like a truck. Bourret has shown a willingness to play hard along the boards and can easily overpower bigger players. In their August 2005 edition, THN said “Bourret is a skilled scoring machine. He plays a complete game, using his speed, shooting ability and toughness to frustrate the opposition.” ISS compared him to Teemu Ruutu, while others see him as an Esa Tikkanen with a better offensive game. THN says, “It should come as no shock Bourret is a skilled scoring machine. He plays a complete game, using his speed, shooting ability and toughness to frustrate the opposition.” Bob McKenzie calls him a “fire hydrant on skates” and praises him for playing “the game hard and with an edge, often to the point of being mean, and is not without offensive ability.”

In analyzing these players, Bourret would be my first selection. He seems to have the offensive ability that [Michael] Blunden is missing and has the skating ability that [Guillaume] Latendresse lacks. The only knock might be his size, but I don’t think that should play too much of a deterrent. First off, he has already shown that he is ready, willing and able to play bigger than his size. He might have to tone it down a notch in the NHL because the players will be bigger, faster and more skilled than in Juniors. Secondly, if the NHL’s no-tolerance stance against the clutching and grabbing is enforced, then Bourret’s perceived lack of size will not be a negative factor.

Bourret did not endear himself to the Thrashers when he showed up at their training camp in September 2005. He came into camp out of shape – a mistake that Bourret learned from.

Here is how Bourret described his situation to Jon Cooper in an interview on the Atlanta Thrashers web site.

“Last year I made a mistake coming to camp not in good shape,” said Bourret, whose lack of conditioning got him off on the wrong foot with Head Coach Bob Hartley. ‘I sure was nervous and I was not ready. I thought it would be easy to play in the NHL, but it’s not. Now I know what to do. It taught me a lot.”

The hard-hitting right wing began the process of getting back on the right track when he reported back to Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

“I know that Bob [Hartley] talked a lot with my coach at Shawinigan,” said Bourret. “He was always on me and he helped me a lot for this year.”

So how did Bourret respond last year with Shawinigan?

The youngster ripped off career highs in goals (44) assists (70) and points (114). Toss in his 114 PIM, and you had a player on a mission.

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The Rangers have traded Pascal Dupuis to the Atlanta Thrashers for a prospect.  According to TSN, the prospect has not yet been revealed.

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In an attempt to shuffle the Rangers blue line deck, President/GM Glen Sather traded Aaron Ward to the Boston Bruins for Paul Mara. The deal is basically a wash salary-wise because Mara has one more year T $3 million and Ward has one year at $2.75 million.

In addition to acquiring Mara, the Rangers have again recalled forwards Jarkko Immonen Brad Isbister from the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The 27-year-old Mara was originally the first round pick (#7) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1997 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-4 and 219 pound Mara is a native of Ridgewood, NJ is a veteran of 483 NHL games and has scored 55 goals and 141 assists with 476 PIM. He has appeared in 59 games with the Bruins and has 3 goals and 15 assists with 95PIM. What is most troubling is his Plus/Minus total which is a minus-22. Actually, he is a Minus-104 for his career and has always been a minus player except for a 16 game stretch with Tampa Bay in 2000-01 when he was a plus-1.

“He’s a big body, a strong guy. He has attributes we think we could use in our game and on our team,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney when asked about Mara following Tuesday’s win over Montreal. “I anticipate that. He helps our power play because he has a great shot, naturally. We’ll see, obviously we made the deal for a reason.”

Mara set career highs for goals and assists during the 2005-2006 season when he scored 15 goals and 32 assists in 78 games with Phoenix. The Coyotes traded Mara and a draft pick to Boston for Nick Boynton and a draft pick in June 2006. Ironically enough, Boynton’s name has come up in various trade rumors with the Rangers.

Here is Mara’s TSN Scouting Report:

Assets: Has the size teams look for in a blueliner and skates very well for a big man. Displays the mentality of a power-play quarterback and likes to lead the rush.

Flaws: Needs more polish in the defensive zone and more overall experience in big-game situations. Must also use a more physical approach against talented forwards.

While TSN projects him to be a “top four defenseman”, Mara has not played up to his potential. However, the Rangers do get a bit younger and add a potential leader on the point for the power play. However, given the Rangers flaws on defense, Mara runs the risk of being a liability on defense.

The Mara acquisition is similar to Sather’s acquisition of Sandis Ozolinsh at the 2006 trade deadline. Both players leave a lot to be desired in the defensive zone. On the plus side, Mara still has some room to grow and his healthy as opposed to Ozolinsh who is/was injury prone and is at the end of his career.

The problem with this deal is that with Mara and Karel Rachunek in the lineup, the Rangers have two poor defensive defensemen. Given Tom Renney’s reluctance to use Thomas Pock, that means Renney has to juggle the defensive pairing or run the risk of pairing Mara and Rachunek – which is a disaster waiting to happen. Sather’s next move has to be move Rachunek, who us an UFA, for whatever he can get. The next move would be to recall Ivan Baranka to take Rachunek’s place.

The trade reunites Ward with Bruins coach Dave Lewis who was an assistant back in the days when Ward was a member of the Red Wings.

Speaking of the Red Wings, TSN is reporting a deal in principle has been agreed to between Detroit and the Florida Panthers. The deal involves the Red Wings sending a prospect and a conditional draft pick for Todd Bertuzzi.

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The New York Rangers have traded D Aaron ward to the Boston Bruins.  According to TSN, the Bruins will be shipping the ever popular Player To Be Named Later back to the Blueshirts.  As soon as I get some additional information, I will pass it along.


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San Jose GM Doug Wilson strikes again. TSN reports the Sharks have acquired RW Bill Guerin from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the 1st round draft pick the Sharks acquired from the New Jersey Devils as part of the Vladimir Malakhov trade and a Player To Be Named Later.  The report states the player is not on San Jose’s roster.  San Jose has now traded both 1st round draft picks they had in 2007 (they sent their own pick to the Montreal Canadiens in the Craig Rivet deal).  More on the PTBNL as it becomes available.

With Guerin going to San Jose (along with Rivet) and Peter Forsberg going to Nashville, does this expand the pressure on Anaheim GM Brian Burke to keep up with the Sharks and Predators?  Burke had Todd Bertuzzi when he was GM in Vancouver, so does he contact Jacques Martin?

The Phoenix Coyotes have traded RW Georges Laraque to the Pittsburgh Penguins for LW Daniel Carcillo and a draft pick.

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TSN reports that the Buffalo Sabres have dealt Unrestricted Free agent goaltender Martin Biron for an undisclosed draft pick.  The Sabres acquired goalie Ty Conklin from the Columbus Blue Jackets as Ryan Miller’s backup.  Original reports had Buffalo acquiring the Nashville Predators 1st round draft pick that the Flyers acquired in the Peter Forsberg.  However, it is possible that draft pick might depend on the Flyers ability to sign Biron.  It will be interesting to see if the Flyers look to move Robert Esche.  Also, it remains to be seen if the Sabres make another move.  Buffalo opened up some salary cap space with Biron going and Conklin coming in.  Given the rash of injuries in Buffalo, the Sabres can’t afford to let any open cap space go to waste.

In addition, the Gary Roberts for Noah Welch swap has been completed.

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As we start the final countdown, I thought I would catch everyone up with some deals that came down during Monday night for those who have not read their morning paper or surfed the Internet.

The New York Islanders traded a 2007 2nd round draft pick to the Washington Capitals for LW/RW Richard Zednik.  This deal is fueling speculation that the Isles might move Jason Blake to a Western Conference team.

The Capitals traded former Ranger D Lawrence Nycholat to Ottawa for D Andy hedlun and a 2007 6th round draft pick.

The Los Angeles Kings sent D Brent Sopel to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2nd round draft pick and 4th round draft pick in the 2008 Draft.

The Canucks swapped a conditional 2nd rounder to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for C Bryan Smolinski.

The Blackhawks then took part in a three-way deal that saw them send D Lasse Kukonen and a 2007 3rd round draft pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for L:W/RW Kyle Calder.  However, Calder’s return to the Windy City was short-lived as Chicago sent Calder to the Detroit Red Wings for LW/RW Jason Williams. 

You have to give props to Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren for trying to rebuild the mess that he inherited from Bobby Clarke and the mess he created.  Holmgren erased his mistake of acquitting Alexei Zhitnik from the Isles when he sent the veteran to the Atlanta Thrashers for D Brayden Coburn.  While the former first rounder has been slow to develop, Coburn does have major ability.  Even if he turns out to be a bust, Holmgren wins just by dumping Zhitnik.  I hope Glen Sather is watching and learning from Edmonton as he prepares for tonight’s festivities as the Oilers retire Mark Messier’s number 11.

TSN is reporting that Florida Panthers LW Gary Roberts has agreed to waive his no-trade clause and will be traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for D Noah Welch.  The deal is on hold until Roberts officially signs the waiver to his no-trade clause.

In Rangers news, Larry Brooks and Mark Everson reported a “POST Exclusive” saying the Blueshirts are offering around Jaromir Jagr.  Brooks writes, “While the Rangers placed Jason Krog on waivers yesterday, Glen Sather is said to have told potential trading partners that he’d consider trading Jagr if presented an offer that ‘knocked him out.’”   I will leave it to your imagination as to whether this talk is valid or not.

John Dellapina in the “Daily News” wrote that Aaron Ward’s days might be numbered and it could refer back to an on-bench argument he had with Jagr during the February 3 Rangers-Lightning game.  Jagr was upset that Ward dumped the puck in during the second period.  The captain played it off by saying that he had similar “disagreements” with linemates Michael Nylander and Martin Straka.

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We are 24 hours away from the 2007 NHL trade deadline and all is quiet on the MSG front – sort of.  The Rangers did place Jason Krog on waivers.  If he does clear waivers, the Ranegrs can send him to Hartford and remove his salary off the cap.

Of note, St. Louis center Petr Cajanek and Columbus defenseman Bryan Berard were also placed on waivers.  It will be interesting to see if the Rangers’ brain trust jumps on either player.  Remember, the Rangers front office is in Edmonton for the Oilers’ festivities as the retire Mark Messier’s number.

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Let us review the question of the day.

Am I more frustrated with A) the Rangers 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils B) that today is my (groan) 43rd birthday C) that I agree with today’s Larry Brooks column?

If you picked C, you would be correct.

While I am still trying to come to grips with getting another year older and trying to figure out last night’s questionable officiating (yet again – the Devils appear to get the best of the calls), Brooks is on target when he calls Jaromir Jagr’s decision to pull himself out of the top three in the shootout “unfathomable”.

I know that many people will be quick to rally to Jagr’s defense.  They will respond with the stance that having Jagr shoot is throwing away one of the three attempts.  That “might” make sense if it were the coach’s decision based purely on a statistical fact or even a gut instinct.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.  The decision for Jagr to be kept out of the first three shooters for the third time in four shootouts rests completely with the captain who told the coach to hold him back.

Even more puzzling is the fact that Tom Renney had Jagr penciled in the fourth slot against the Devils on February 6 and fifth last night.  If it is so necessary to keep Jagr out of the top three, then why is he being listed fourth and fifth?  At that point, it makes more sense to have him go first and give the Rangers some leeway if he misses as opposed to have him go in a potential “sudden death” spot of fourth or fifth.

John Dellapina of the “Daily News” offered up Renney’s defense of his superstar captain.

“He’s just not where he wants to be in the shootouts.  Consequently, he’s not interested in shootouts.”

That is all well and good, but I am not where I want to be sleep-wise.  Consequently, I am not interested in showing up to work today.

I don’t think my boss would accept my reasoning and there is no way the Rangers should accept Renney and Jagr’s reasoning.

The previously mentioned Brooks had this tidbit in the “NY Post”.

“‘I’m not good anymore,’ Jagr told The Post when asked why wasn’t on Renney’s list.  ‘That’s the reason.’”

Can you imagine Mark Messier begging out of the shootout because he’s “not good anymore”?

Besides, if Marek Malik can score during a shootout, how hard can it be? :-)

For better of for worse, whether he likes it or not, Jaromir Jagr has to set an example for his teammates.  That is one the responsibilities you take on when you wear the captain’s “C” on your chest.  If Jagr can’t show confidence in himself, how can he expect his teammates to have confidence in him and how is he going to inspire them to have confidence in themselves?

I am reminded of a story that is told during HBO’s documentary on the success of the 1999 Women’s World Cup that was held in the United States.  The championship game between the United States and China was decided by penalty kicks.  U.S. coach Tony DeCicco selected Mia Hamm as one of the Americans five shooters – despite Hamm’s admitted inability to produce results when taking penalties in practice.

DeCicco commented that there was no way he was going to leave on of the greatest players and scorers in the game on the bench during the penalty kicks.

The same logic applies to Renney and Jagr.  A legion of Ranger fans reacted without stunned disbelief when Joe Thornton won the Hart Trophy over Jagr last year.  If you want to be the best, you have to act like you are the best – and that means sucking it up and taking one of the first three shootout attempts.

If you think it doesn’t make a difference, then read what Martin Brodeur told Sherry Ross of the “Daily News” in reference to NOT having to face Jagr in the shootout.

“I’m happy when he’s not shooting.”

You can’t boil down this point any simpler than Brodeur did in that sentence.

Jagr and Renney’s logic is just as baffling as Marc Crawford’s logic when, as Coach of Team Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics, he left Wayne Gretzky on the bench as Canada lost the semifinal shootout against the Domenik Hasek-led Czech Republic.

By the way, Jagr was one of the Czech Republic’s five shooters.

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The Rangers have placed 38-year-old Brendan Shanahan on the Inured reserve List and have recalled 29-year-old Brad Isbister from Hartford. Shanahan will be eligible to be activated on February 25, 2007. In the official press release, the Rangers PR machine is humping the fact that Isbister has 6 goals in his last 9 games and his plus-8 rating leads the Wolf Pack. Overall, Isbister has 14 goals and 13 assists in 42 games with Hartford and Albany.

Conversely, Jakub Petruzalek, who was sent to Carolina in the Isbister deal (along with a conditional fifth round draft pick, has scored 9 goals and 22 assists in 44 games with Albany and Hartford in 37 AHL games and added 1 goal and 9 assists in 7 games with Charlotte in the ECHL.

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