The New York Rangers face a brave new world as they enter the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Don Maloney has left the organization to become the GM of the Phoenix Coyotes. As reported by Blueshirt Bulletin (based on an Ottawa Sun article) Rangers scout Tim Murray is set to join his uncle Bryan Murray who replaced John Muckler as GM of the Senators. While Gordie Clark will again run the Rangers draft, one might surmise that Christer Rockstrom will have a bigger voice in the Rangers draft strategy given the loss of Maloney and Murray. However, it is going to be up to Glen Sather to continue the successes the organization experienced in the last two drafts.The one thing that Sather has been able to do come draft day is to make trades. He has shown an ability to trade up and down based on the situation, and more importantly, Sather has been able to make deals to fill in for draft picks that had been traded away. Sather will need to be at his “Let’s Make a Deal” Monty Hall (ironically, a former Rangers announcer) best this year because the Rangers do not own their own third and fourth round draft picks.

The Rangers traded away their third round pick (78th overall) in the deal that sent Pascal Dupuis to Atlanta for Alex Bourret. One could say that the Rangers acquired first round potential for a third round draft pick.

The Blueshirts fourth round pick (108th overall) belongs to the Washington Capitals. The Rangers dealt their 2007 fourth round pick to Washington in exchange for Vancouver’s 2006 fifth round pick (137th overall) – which the Capitals had acquired in a previous trade. The Rangers used that 2006 pick to select Tomas Zaborsky.

Barring any trades, the Rangers will have to wait some 90 picks in between their second round pick (#48) and their next selection (fifth round – #138).  The Rangers own their own sixth round pick (#168) and seventh round picks (#198) as well as Montreal’s seventh round pick (#193) – which was acquired when New York sent the rights to Ryan Russell to the Canadiens.

The key to the Rangers success in 2007 will be based on a couple of factors. The first point is the ongoing saga between the NHL and the Russian Hockey Federation. The lack of a transfer agreement could cause players like Alexei Cherepanov and Maxim Mayorov to drop. If that is the case, it is possible that teams ahead of the Rangers will be more inclined to trade out of their spots. It also means that some teams might want to try and move up to the 17th spot – especially in the case of Mayorov who is more likely to be available at #17 than Cherepanov. The Rangers caught a break last year as Artem Anisimov dropped into the second round. If there had been a transfer agreement in place, it is possible that the Russian center would have been a first round selection.

Another point to consider is the slippage factor. Just ask Brady Quinn and the Cleveland Browns how important this factor is when it comes to drafting. The Rangers prospered from the slippage factor as Bobby Sanguinetti fell to them in the 21st spot in 2006. Not only does the slippage factor allow for a variety of talent to be available with the 17th pick, it also opens up the ability for the Rangers to trade down and add additional draft picks.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the Rangers could look to move up in the draft. In my article for the print version of “Blueshirt Bulletin” I brought up a possible scenario of trading with the Phoenix Coyotes since Maloney is so well versed with the Rangers organization. If Maloney and the Coyotes wanted to solve their goaltending situation without spending millions in signing a J.S. Giguere or trading for a Manny Fernandez, Al Montoya could be a possibility. The ideal trade would be swapping Montoya for the third overall pick, but there is no way Maloney would be that generous to his former team.

In reality, for any trade to work, the Rangers would have to package Montoya, the 17th overall pick and (at least) a couple of prospects. From the Rangers point of view, they would need a goaltender in return. My proposal included the Coyotes sending David LeNeveu back to the Blueshirts.

A more likely scenario would see the Rangers and the Capitals making a deal on draft day. If the slippage factor is working for the Blueshirts, the Rangers could trade the 17th overall pick to the Capitals for the 28th overall pick (Washington’s second first round selection) and one of their second round picks (the Caps’ pick at 34 or the 46th pick which they acquired from the Islanders). The Rangers could then use the extra second pick to maneuver their way back into the third and/or fourth round.

Why even bother with all of these trade possibilities? Most people who are in the know say that this draft is not as strong as past drafts. In that case, teams need to draft for quality or quantity. If the Rangers want quality, then they need to do whatever it takes to get into the top seven or so. If they can’t, or won’t, then they need to move down and add additional picks.

Did Clark offer an insight into the Rangers thinking in an interview he did for the team’s official web site?

“This is not a real deep draft in terms of what most scouting staffs would call impact players,” Clark said during the Internet interview. “You’re going to get some players in the second half of the first round that are going to play good roles on your team, but you might not be able to get that first or second-liner, or a guy that’s going to be a regular top-four defenseman in three or for years from now and then sustain that for the next 10 years. These last two drafts have been pretty much the same. Between Europe and here, it hasn’t bee full of high-skilled players.”

It seems that the Rangers are fully aware of the “quality vs. quantity” draft strategy debate. Depending on how successful Sather is at reading the draft will determine which way the Rangers go.

As for me, if Nick Petrecki or Maxim Mayorov is available, then I keep the pick and draft one of them. If not, I would look to move down to #28 in the above-mentioned deal with the Capitals and draft the best player available (perhaps Logan MacMillan or Michal Repik). I would take the extra second draft pick and look to move it to St. Louis for their third round pick (#70) and one of their fourth round picks (#96 or #100). Those two trades would give the Rangers four picks within the top 100, restore the traded away third and fourth round picks, and put the Rangers in a position to add more draft picks depending on how the run of players progresses on the second day of the draft.

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