Business picked up as far as the Rangers are concerned on the eve of the NHL trade deadline. No, Glen Sather has not been wheeling and dealing, but other teams have been – and that will have an impact on what the Blueshirts can and will do.

Philadelphia fired off the first shot by reacquiring Vaclav Prospal from Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional 2009 draft pick. The Flyers needed help up front with Simon Gagne done for the season and Mike Richards sidelined indefinitely.

With the Lightning freeing up some money, they re-signed Dan Boyle to a reported six-year $40 million deal – thus removing one potential Ranger target.

John Davidson removed another potential target as St. Louis re-signed Barret Jackman to a four-year $14.4 million deal.

In addition, it is very possible that John-Michael Liles, an UFA, will be off the market with Colorado signing Peter Forsberg for the remainder of the season. It is hard to imagine the Avalanche bringing in Forsberg and then moving Liles without getting equal NHL value – something the Rangers don’t have among their defenseman.

With Paul Mara out at least two weeks after facial surgery, it seems that the Rangers list of defenseman is contracting to the point the organization has to think long and hard about giving someone like Ivan Baranka, Cory Potter or Michael Sauer a chance to show their stuff. That would allow the Rangers to give one of the youngsters playing time in meaningful games. However, it also means playing four young defensemen. The other option would be to try and get Thomas Pock through waivers – something that is not likely to happen. They could also try to run Andrew Hutchinson through waivers. While he might clear waivers and help the power play, he is too much of a risk defensively.

Given that the Rangers signed Jason Strudwick at the end of the season last year even though he would not be eligible for the playoffs, look for the Rangers to be active in acquiring a veteran defenseman. Here is a list of the usual suspects:

ROB BLAKE – Much has been written as to whether or not Blake would waive his no-trade clause. However one thing that seems to be certain is that he will not waive it to play for an East Coast team. If he is traded, the furthest east he goes is Detroit.

NICK BOYNTON – The Phoenix defenseman is signed through next season at a manageable $3 million. Coyotes GM Don Maloney knows the Rangers’ organizational depth better than anyone – maybe even Glen Sather. He isn’t the best offensive or defensive defenseman available, but he is a solid two-way defenseman who does hit and has a strong shot from the point.

BRIAN CAMPBELL – If you polled Ranger fans, Campbell would be their guy because he is the offensive d-man the fans want – even though there is probably a more pressing need for a better defensive player than Campbell. The problem is that the Sabres have to extract as much as possible from any trade partner given they let Daniel Briere and Chris Drury leave as UFAs. With so many other teams looking for offensive help on the blue line, the Campbell bidding war might be too pricey for the Rangers.

MATT CARLE – If you are wondering why the Sharks would be looking to shop a young offensive defenseman, one only needs to look at his contract – which has four years and $14 million remaining. He is not that physical, but is the power play QB teams are looking for at the deadline.

HAL GILL – You know Jaromir Jagr would be happy not to have to face the 6-foot-7 and 250 pound Gill any more. While his skating and offensive game leave a lot to be deserved, his size and ability to clear the net would be a plus for the Rangers. With the situation in Toronto so unsettled, it is hard to handicap what the Leafs are going to do. Gill only has one more year at a reasonable $2.1 million so acquiring him would not prevent the Rangers from bringing in a defenseman during the summer or re-signing Michal Rozsival

RON HAINSEY – Columbus GM Scott Howson still hasn’t decided whether to be a buyer or a seller. Given he is in his first year with the Jackets, he can get away with being a seller and trying to build the organization. Odds are he will look to move Hainsey and Sergei Federov. While his defensive game is not as strong as his offensive game, the 26-year-old is progressing nicely. However, at 6-foot-3 and nearly 215 pounds he does not to be more physical.

STEVE STAIOS – If Campbell is the favorite of the fans, it seems that Staios is the favorite of some of the media. While the 34-year-old was a Blues first round pick in 1991, he is currently a member of the Oilers so Sather might feel compelled to give his old buddy Kevin Lowe a call. He is the solid physical defenseman the Rangers need, and while in consistent offensively, he does have some offensive ability. However, he is also as a history of knee injuries during the last two seasons and has three years and $8 million remaining on his contract.

BRAD STUART – The Kings defenseman is an UFA who is only 28. He has all the potential to be a big-time d-man. He is a fluid skater with great vision and passing skills and the skating ability to match. However, he tends to have problems in his own zone and he is not as physical as someone with his size should be (6-2/213).

CAM BARKER – I left the most intriguing player for last. Barker was a player I hoped the Rangers would draft in 2004 before Chicago snatched him up third overall. The Blackhawks are looking to add some scoring up front and are willing to trade from their strength on defense. The 6-foot-3 and 222 pound Barker would be an acquisition that would pay even more dividends in the future than he will now. While he needs to find a consistency to his game, especially in his own zone, the positives well outweigh the negatives. He is a physical blueliner with a big-time shot from the point that would to be an asset on the power play. He is signed through next year at only $984,000 so he would be a steal as far as the salary cap goes. The down side for the Rangers is that it would cost them one of their young forwards – possibly a Petr Prucha – and a prospect and/or draft picks. If the Rangers could retain their core prospects (Alexei Cherepanov and Bobby Sanguinetti) and keep their first round draft pick, it would be worth the while to move Prucha to bring in Barker.

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