The 2010 NHL Trade Deadline passed with the New York Rangers involved in only two minor league deals. It marked the first time since 2001 that the Blueshirts did not add any NHL players at the deadline. In doing so, the Rangers managed to avoid the calls to buyers or sellers from their fans.

Then again, the Rangers managed to be both buyers and sellers (something I have advocated) on February 1 when they acquired Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust from Calgary in exchange for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik. In that one deal, the Rangers took a chance at improving their team for this season while helping out their future by removing the final two years of Kotalik’s contract.

While this trade deadline produced a record 31 deals involving a record 55 players, most of them were small deals that involved teams adding role players or looking to dump salaries. It stands to reason why the broadcasters on TSN were happy to see the Peter Mueller/Kevin Porter trade for Wojtek Wolski because, as they said, it was “an old fashioned trade” – even though Mueller and Wolski will be Restricted Free Agents at the end of the season.

Looking back, teams were more interested in getting something for players set to become Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the season then making the blockbuster or impact-type trades we have seen in the past.

The Rangers were at the head of of a pack teams that were unable to swing any bigger trades because, as the TSN announcers put it, the need for trades to be in the “dollar-for-dollar” range.

Many hockey analysts were surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers stood pat at the deadline and did not address their goaltending concerns. The problem is both teams did not have the necessary cap room to make a significant trade for a goaltender without moving salary in the process.

While it would have been nice to see the Rangers move cap problems Wade Redden and Michael Rozsival, the reality is any chance the Rangers might have had took a huge hit when Sheldon Souray broke his hand a couple of days before the Rangers pulled off the Jokinen deal. The smallest glimmer of hope ended yesterday when it was announced that Souray’s season is over because of a post-operation infection.

In all reality, any trade of that magnitude is more likely to happen during the summer – much like Glen Sather’s trading of Scott Gomez to Montreal. Teams can better manage their salary cap situation during the off-season.

The other factor to consider in the Rangers lack of movement, and to an extent the lack of big-time trades, is what teams were looking for in return. The market was set prior to the Winter Olympics break when San Jose acquired Niclas Wallin and Montreal acquired Dominic Moore with second round draft picks being the prized return for Carolina and Florida respectively.

Those two trades pointed out the rush to stockpile draft picks as 25 draft picks were transferred among the record 31 trades. If you go back to New Jersey’s deal with Atlanta to acquire Ilya Kovalchuk, one first round draft pick, four second round draft picks and four third round draft picks were traded within the space of a month.

The Rangers were at a disadvantage because they do not have their 2010 third round draft pick – Sather sent to Los Angeles in the Brian Boyle deal. As a result, the Rangers could not afford to part with a second round pick and were ill-prepared to trade a first round pick because of the possibility that they might miss the playoffs.

The one thing that should not have been a factor was the Olympic Break and the roster freeze. While teams were prevented from making trades during Vancouver 2010, they were not prevented from discussing trades any laying the groundwork for a post-Olympic trade frenzy.

Truth be told, of all the players traded, only two might have helped the Rangers while being within the Rangers price range as far as trades go – and one of them might have been outside of their price range cap -wise.

The Devils acquired defenseman Martin Skoula from Toronto for a five round draft pick. Skoula would have been a nice acquisition on defense and possibly cracked the top six.

The other player was Lee Stempniak who went from Toronto to Phoenix for journeyman defenseman Matt Jones and fourth and seventh round draft picks in 2010. While he isn’t the big goal scorer they could have used, he does have the ability to play the point on the power play. The only problem is that his salary is $3.5 million and even if you prorate it, the Blueshirts still might not have enough salary cap space.

In the end, Sather was probably better off sitting this trade deadline out because some of the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make at all. He made a good move in the deal with Calgary and was better off standing pat as opposed to shuffling the deck chairs. After all, the captain of the Titanic wasn’t going to save his ship by shuffling around her chairs either.

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