The New York Rangers stand at the brink of a playoff spot with 19 games left and the NHL trade deadline fast approaching at 3pm today. The big question is should the Rangers be buyers or sellers?

For most fans the answer is simple – Sell! Sell! Sell! However, that requires that Ranger fans put their trust in President/GM Glen Sather to do the right thing. Anyone willing to take that leap of faith?

As we have seen in deals leading up to and following the NHL Olympic roster freeze, the going rate for rental players (e.g. Olli Jokinen and Vinny Prospal) is a second round draft pick. Anyone have confidence in Sather cashing in those extra draft picks? For those who are on the fence, let’s take a look how Slats has done recently.

In 2004, the Rangers had four second round draft picks as a result of Sather deciding to sell at the trade deadline. Here are the players the Rangers drafted:

Darin Olver (36th overall) – played six games with Hartford in 2006/2007 after finishing up his college eligibility at Northern Michigan. He is currently playing in Europe.

Dane Byers (48th overall) – prospect with the Hartford Wolf Pack and has played six NHL games including five this season when he scored his first NHL goal.

Bruce Graham (51st overall) – spent three season splitting time between Hartford and Charlotte (ECHL) and is currently playing in the CHL.

Brandon Dubinsky (60th overall) – the only bona fide hit among the four 2004 second round draft picks.

The Rangers also earned two first round draft picks in the first round that year and both of them ended up out of the organization after being traded to Phoenix: Al Montoya (6th overall) and Lauri Korpikoski (19th overall)

With Sather’s selling results being spotty, does that mean the Rangers should be buyers?

Unfortunately, the Rangers are not in good position to be buyers at the deadline based on the going rate of rental players. If a second rate draft pick is the rate of a rental player, the Rangers are at big disadvantage because they can’t afford to lose their 2010 second round pick because Sather dealt away his third round pick for Brian Boyle in July 2009.

I know some people are wondering what the big deal is about trading draft picks if Sather is so bad at it. The problem is the Rangers, like all teams sitting on the playoff bubble, are not locks to make the playoffs. Even if they did make the playoffs, it will be by the skin of their teeth and will face a quick exit in the playoffs. I not so sure that it is worth the gamble of giving away draft picks for rent-a-players.

No, what Sather’s course of action has to be to do what he can to peel off as much dead weight from his salary cap as he can. That is the only way I would be willing to include draft picks and/or prospects in any trade at the deadline.

He started this process in the Jokinen deal as he managed to move Ales Kotalik without adding any additional salary beyond this year. Moving Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival will not be so easy. The Rangers will be required to take on a sizeable contract in return unless they find a team with a load of salary space. Even in that case, it will cost the Rangers more than a second round draft pick. You can be sure that any such team will require a first round draft pick and one of the Blueshirts top prospects – and possibly a young player off the current roster.

As I wrote last time, moving a Redden et al for Sheldon Souray of Edmonton would be a plus because the Rangers would save a $1 million or so per season and Souray’s deal expires in 2012 while Redden’s contract extends out until 2014.

Of course, such a deal would require the Rangers to pony up draft picks and/or prospects and possibly a Dubinsky. If Sather can creative, he could try to get the Oilers to send Andrew Cogliano back in the deal.

If Sather is looking to shuffle the deck a bit, he could swap Rozy for Souray in a deal that is more or less an even salary swap with both deals in the same salary range and length.

Larry Brooks of the NY Post says the Rangers have interest in acquiring Raffi Torres from Columbus as a rental player. He isn’t a bad player, but I am not sure if he is worth trading a second round draft pick. However, with Marian Gaborik’s health a question, the Rangers might be more willing to gamble.

Brooks also writes that the Rangers are looking for help on defense and have asked about two rental blueliners: Dan Hamhuis of Nashville and Milan Jurcina of Columbus. In Jurcina’s case, Brooks writes that the Blue Jackets would be interested in Matt Gilroy. If the Rangers could work out a deal for Torres and Jurcina for Gilroy and a prospect or two (not major prospects), then it might be worth the gamble. I like Gilroy as a player, but he will make $2.1 million next season and that might be too big a cap hit to take.

Bob McKenzie of TSN had an update on Raffi Torres at 10am on Twitter. McKenzie wrote that Columbus is looking for a first round draft pick – which better leave the Rangers on the outside looking in.

Interestingly enough, two players who might have been on the Rangers radar were dealt last night. Chicago acquired defenseman Nick Boynton from Atlanta for future considerations. Interestingly enough, the Blackhawks assigned him to the AHL team so he will have to clear re-entry waivers at half his salary to be recalled.

The second deal was finished off late in the night as Pittsburgh acquired Alexei Ponikravosky from Toronto in exchange for d-man Martin Skoula and forward Luca Caputi.

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