2013 NHL Trade Deadline


If the NHL Trade Deadline was the game of Clue, not too many people would have had Marian Gaborik to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore. Even fewer people would have had Brassard, Moore and Ryane Clowe (who had not scored a goal all year) combining for four goals and four assists (including four power play points) in their first game as New York Rangers. For one night, Glen Sather’s wheeling and dealing paid off.

It remains to be seen how these two deals shape the rest of the Rangers season and if they were enough to make the difference in missing the playoffs and having the chance to replicate their 2012 playoff run.

Only time will tell if the Rangers will have enough time to gel as a team while trying to make a run at the playoffs. The Blueshirts have now reshaped their team twice within the confines of one season – and both times doing so without the benefit of training camp and a full 82-game schedule.

Whatever is in store for the rest of this season, the Gaborik trade was made with an eye towards the next two seasons.

With the NHL salary cap dropping by $6 million in 2013-2014, the Rangers needed to find a way to create some salary cap flexibility with Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonough and Derek Stepan needing new deals as RFAs, and Clowe set to become an UFA.

Even if the Rangers did not trade Gaborik, there is no way they were going to re-sign him after next season with the likes of Martin Biron, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, and Anton Stralman all set to become UFAs and Michael Del Zotto becoming a RFA – as will Brassard and Moore.

CapGeek lists the Rangers having $14.8 million in cap space available for next year. That figure does not factor in all of the free agents or any of the youngsters who are assigned to the AHL (e.g. Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller). Given the numbers game alone, the Blueshirts might need to move out more salary (Aron Asham? Taylor Pyatt?) in order to build next year’s team.

Setting aside the financial considerations, the Rangers trades reshape the team along the lines of the team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The big change is that the main scoring winger this year (Nash) is a far more physical player than last year’s main scoring winger (Gaborik).

In addition, the Rangers added depth to their roster, as well as getting bigger and younger with the additions of Brassard and Moore – two former 1st round draft picks who still have room to grow in terms of reaching their potential.

Sather’s deadline dealings leaves the Rangers without a first and second round pick this June and they also dealt away one of their three third round picks, but they might be able to recoup it if they do not make the Stanley Cup Finals. If that is the case, then the Rangers receive a third round pick from Columbus as part of the Rick Nash trade.

In addition, the Rangers still have an opportunity to restock their prospect pool by signing undrafted collegiate and Junior players. The Blueshirts already fortified their defense corps with the signing of Conor Allen and Tommy Hughes.

Here is a detailed look at all of the newest New York Rangers.

RYANE CLOWE

Clowe is a 6-foot-2 and 225 pound LW who brings the “jam” that Coach John Tortorella often talks about. The 30-year-old Clowe was San Jose’s 7th round draft pick (#175) in the 2001 NHL Draft. Prior to his goal scoring drought this season with the Sharks, Clowe averaged about 21 goals and 33 assists during the last four seasons – including a career best 24 goals and 38 assists in 2010-11. He also added six goals and nine assists in 17 playoff games that year.

Here is his Hockey News Scouting Report:

Assets: Plays a solid up-and-down game, and is a throwback winger who loves to check and do the dirty work. Strong on the puck, he’s versatile enough to line up on either wing. Is a good scorer in close and an excellent scrapper, too.

Flaws: Can be a bit too streaky in the goal-scoring department. As he has become a bigger scoring threat, he has become a little less physical, too. Also, he is not an elegant skater; he’s somewhat of a plodder, in fact.

Career Potential: Solid power forward.

DERICK BRASSARD

The 25-year-old Brassard was the sixth overall selection in the 2006 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-1 and 202 pound Center was the ninth rated prospect by the International Scouting Service (ISS) who compared his playing style to that of Paul Kariya. ISS attributed his hockey sense to his hockey background as his father Pierre was drafted in 1976 the 6th round by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL Draft and in the 10th round by the Quebec Nordiques in the WHA Draft. While Pierre did not play professional hockey, he did star for three years with Cornwall (QMJHL) – averaging 61 goals and 63 assists in his final two seasons.

Of Brassard, ISS said, “The shifty pivot is one of the most exciting forwards in the offensive zone; speed and agility allows him to find the open space. With all his offensive ability he still shows good defensive awareness and the willingness to help out in the defensive zone.”

His career has hampered by a pair of shoulder injuries that caused him to miss large chunks of playing time. In the 2006-07 season, Brassard was limited to just 14 games with Rimouski (QMJHL). In 2008-09, another shoulder injury forced Brassard to miss the final 50 games of the regular season and all four Columbus playoff games.

In 2010-11, Brassard set career highs in goals, assists and points (17-30-47).

Here is Brassard’s Hockey News Scouting Report:

Assets: Skates well and possesses plenty of scoring instincts. Can excel at both ends of the ice, and is a determined athlete. Owns leadership qualities.

Flaws: Must learn to shoot more. Needs to continue adding more strength to fully maximize his vast potential. Has to overcome his propensity to get injured.

Career Potential: Talented, but inconsistent forward with upside.

DEREK DORSETT

Rangers fans will have to wait before the debut of their new RW. The 6-foot and 192 pound Dorsett is on Injured Reserve recovering from a broken collarbone. Some reports have him out for the rest of the season while others say he could be back for the last week of the regular season or the start of the playoffs.

The one thing that is for certain is that fans of Brandon Prust are going to love Dorsett as he plays the same style of game that Prust does. Dorsett did kill penalties while a member of the Blue Jackets.

Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch tweeted the following in the aftermath of the Rangers-Blue Jackets trade, “Fully expect Derek Dorsett to be a fan favorite in Madison Square Garden. He’s not big, but his heart swells in the sweater. Tortorella will love this guy, as long as he limits ill-advised penalties. But he’s fearless and relentless player. Will fight anybody.”

His willingness to scrap, and take some ill-advised penalties, contributed to his NHL best 235 PIMs – which were fueled by his 19 fighting majors. Despite spending all that time in the penalty box, Dorsett did score 12 goals and add 8 assists as well last season. He was averaging about 16 minutes of ice time this season and tallied three goals and six assists in 24 games with Columbus.

Dorsett was part of Columbus’ 2006 NHL Draft that produced NHLers Brassard, the recently traded Steve Mason and Tom Sestito. Dorsett was the Blue Jackets 7th round pick (#189).

Here is Dorsett’s Hockey News Scouting Report:

Assets: Is an industrious winger who never backs down from challenges. Loves to initiate contact and agitate the opposition. Will drop the gloves on occasion. Can play any forward position if he has to.

Flaws: Is somewhat limited in the scoring department at the National Hockey League level. Needs to get stronger and avoid injuries in order to survive in the NHL playing with such reckless abandon.

Career Potential: Effective, fearless agitator.

JOHN MOORE

The 6-foot-3 and 202 pound defenseman was Columbus’ 1st round pick (#21) in the 2009 NHL Draft. The Rangers selected Chris Kreider two picks early and Calgary drafted Tim Erixon two picks later. As we all know, thanks to Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire, played triple-A amateur hockey with the Chicago Mission who was coached by Ed Olczyk. What the NBC Sports guys didn’t mention is that former NHL defenseman Steve Smith was also one of Moore’s coaches.

In 2009, Moore was rated the 16th best prospect by ISS and they compared his playing style to that of Joe Corvo.

Of Moore, ISS said, He has the size and skill to go along with great playmaking abilities. Tremendous skater. Moore is blessed with very light / quick feet that enable him to get to and from the puck/plays in an expeditious manner. In addition, Moore’s checking skills have also improved as he is holding his checks better along the boards with improved balance etc.”

After spending 73 games in the AHL in his rookie seasons (two games with Columbus), Moore played 67 games with the Blue Jackets (two goals and five assists) last season (just five games in the AHL).

The 22-year-old blueliner was limited to just 18 games with Columbus as a lower body injury caused him to miss five games in February and a recent shoulder injury forced him to miss eight games as he was on the Injured Reserve List and only was activated in mid-March.

Here is Moore’s Hockey News Scouting Report:

Assets: Has a good frame to grow into, and owns exceptional skating ability. Can play an offensive role and likes to be on the attack. Can fire the puck and eventually quarterback a power play. His speed is also very useful on defense.

Flaws: Is still learning the nuances of the NHL game. Needs to add more strength in order to better handle big forwards. Needs to keep working on his defensive consistency with regards to his decision-making.

Career Potential: Extremely mobile defenseman with good upside.

CONOR ALLEN

The 6-foot-1 and 210 Allen was the first of two undrafted free agent defensemen the Rangers signed leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. The 23-year-old played his collegiate hockey at the University of Massachusetts. Believe it or not, there is an Olczyk connection with Allen. While at UMass, Allen was a teammate of Eddie Olczyk, Ed’s son.

Signing free agent UMass defenseman is nothing new for the Blueshirts because they signed Thomas Pock at the end of the 2003-04 season. Much like Matt Gilroy, Pock was a forward who was shifted to the blue line in college.

The Rangers have three other UMass connections. Defenseman Marvin Degon, an AHL signee, played 85 games with Hartford in 2005-06 and 200607.

In 2011-12, Casey Wellman played 31 AHL games with the Connecticut Whale after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild.
Danny Hobbs, the Rangers 7th round pick (#198) in the 2007 NHL Draft played four seasons at UMass before turning pro and spending this season in the ECHL with the Greenville Road Warriors.

Allen also played in USHL with Sioux Falls Stampede (2009/10) with Dallas 2011 1st rounder Jamie Oleksiak, and was an NAHL teammate of Devils goalie prospect Keith Kinkaid in 2008/09 with the St. Louis Bandits.

Allen is looking to duplicate the jump to the NHL two other Minutemen have taken – LA’s Jonathan Quick and Toronto’s Mike Kostka.

Allen spent the previous two summers on two NHL Summer Development Camp Rosters – the Washington Capitals (2011) and the Vancouver Canucks (2012).

His college coach for his first two seasons, Don “Toot” Cahoon, gave an insight into Allen’s game during a September 2010 interview.

“Allen will be a great skating defenseman in this league,” Cahoon told Dick Baker of MassLive.com. “He really transitions the puck by foot as well as with a strong pass.”

UMass Sports Blog Fear The Triangle offered up this summary of Allen’s season.

“I thought Allen was consistently one of the best UMass players on the ice this season and even one of the better defenseman in the conference. Defensively, he was easily the best player for UMass. He more than doubled his blocked shots from last year from 24 to a team high 57. He doubled his assists from last year, from 7 to 14, and added 5 goals of his own.”

TOMMY HUGHES

The 6-foot-2 and 216 pound defenseman comes to the Rangers as an undrafted free agent out of Canadian Junior hockey and from a team they are quite familiar with – the London Knights. Both Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto were member of the Knights.
Hughes, a native of London, Ontario, is looking to follow in the footsteps of Girardi and become another London blueliner who went from undrafted free agent to NHL star with the Rangers.

If Hughes does make the Rangers in the not-too-distant future, he will have the chance to team with London Knights alum Rick Nash, whose #61 is retired. Former Ranger Brendan Shanahan also has his number retired (#19).

Ottawa’s Marc Methot is another undrafted Knights defenseman who has battled his way into the NHL.

Currently, Hughes is one of five members of the London Knights who have signed contracts with NHL teams while another five Knights have been drafted but have yet to sign with their draft teams.

Hughes actually serves as a perfect complement to Allen. Whereas Hughes is a right-handed shot, Allen is a left-handed shooting defenseman.

However, while Allen has signed an Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreement with the Connecticut Whale, Hughes’ pro debut is on hold as he leads his Knights into the Second Round of the OHL playoffs. London’s opponent is, ironically enough, the Kitchener Rangers – one of the teams London defeated last year on their way to an OHL championship. The Knights and Baby Rangers have a couple of wild playoff battles during the last few years and this year should be no different.

Hughes is finishing up his fourth season with London and is serving as an Alternate Captain for the Knights. The defensive d-man set career highs in games (67), assists (15), points (16), and PIMs (66).

Being an undrafted player is nothing new to the soon to be 21-year-old (on April 7). He joined London as a “walk-on” during the 2009-10 season (playing seven games) after playing his AAA midget hockey with the London Jr. Knights.

The Rangers interest in Hughes did not appear all of a sudden. The Blueshirts invited him to their Summer Development camp this year, but a broken foot put the kibosh on his availability.

You know that Hughes will be ready for the rough-and-tumble world of the NHL given that his Junior coach is Dale Hunter.

“He blocks shots, he’s fearless out there,” Hunter told John Matisz of Metronews.ca. “He just kept getting better and better every year.”

Hunter also spoke to Matisz about London’s ability to train and develop undrafted NHL blueliners.

“They were like that for me when they were here, and that’s what Hughesy does for us,” the former Washington Capitals coach explained – referencing Girardi and Methot.

In reference to Hughes Matisz wrote, “A trademark of Hughes’ game is his unorthodox skating style. Though it often appears like his long strides slow him down, Hunter insists it’s quite the opposite.”

“He’s a very good skater. He’s fast. He stays in a crouch, which he should anyways, and he’s strong,” Hunter said in defense of Hughes.

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With the NHL trade deadline just a day away, the rumor mill is heating up as teams start jockeying for positioning to make that one trade that will put them over the top or signal the start of a rebuilding process.

Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero already laid waste to the NHL trade market with his pre-deadline deals that brought in the likes of Brendan Morrow, Doug Murray and Jarome Iginla. While Shero says he is done, his salary cap situation says otherwise. According to CapGeek, the Penguins have the ability to add $18 million in annual average salary to their payroll.

The Penguins have gone all in because all three of their acquisitions are UFAs and they might be facing a closing window of opportunity come the end of next season when Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz become UFAs and Simon Despres and Brandon Sutter become RFAs.

Conversely, the New York Rangers have the ability to add about $6.8 million in annual average salary come the deadline. Unlike the Penguins who were adding to a powerhouse team, the Rangers have one-third the cap space to try and right a team that is fighting for their playoff lives.

Faced with a dropping salary cap come next season, and a disinclination to trade away any of their prized prospects, the Blueshirts do not expect too active at the trade deadline. Rather than the splashy headlines they made in 1994 on their way to the Stanley Cup, the best the Rangers can expect to do is tinker a little bit – reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic if you will.

The Rangers and San Jose Sharks have spent a lot of time scouting each other. From all indications, the Blueshirts focus was on Dan Boyle and Ryane Clowe. While the Rangers could probably make Boyle’s contract work for this season, they would not be able to fit his $6.67 million contract next year unless Marian Gaborik headed west.

In addition to the salary concern, Boyle has a limited no-trade clause and the Rangers could be one of eight teams on his veto list.

Clowe fits well within Coach John Tortorella’s style and would bring some of that “jam” that Torts is always harping on. Clowe is an UFA at the end of the season so the Rangers would only have to accommodate his prorated $3.6 million contract for this season. Clowe would not be the direct answer to the Rangers offensive woes. For those answers, you need the likes of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards to start earning their big-time salaries.

Rather, Clowe helps add a physical aspect that the Rangers lost when they dealt away Brandon Dubinsky and let Brandon Prust leave as an UFA – both moves which were the right moves. The problem is Glen Sather never adequately replaced those two players and a player like Artem Anisimov. The 6-foot-2 and 225 pound Clowe has not scored a goal this season, but the Rangers are looking for him to create some space for the Blueshirt snipers to operate.

San Jose President/GM Doug Wilson explained the Clowe situation from the Sharks perspective.

“He’s one of these guys that’s feared and respected, he’s tough as nails, he can play the game, he’s a great teammate, and he’s a pending unrestricted free agent,” Wilson told The Associated Press.

“As a player and a teammate, teammates know he has their back and he’s just a tremendous heart-and-soul competitor.”

Apparently because of his no-trade clause, Clowe’s choices came down to the Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. Kevin Allen of USA Today spoke to Vancouver GM Mike Gillis who told him, “It seemed like geography was a (determining) factor.”

Allen then added his own take – “According to Gillis, Clowe liked the Vancouver situation, but preferred to move to the Eastern Conference team.

Setting aside all talk of no-trade and no-movement clauses, the Rangers have made it clear they are loathed to move the likes of Chris Kreider or J.T. Miller in trades and it is doubtful they would give up Dylan McIlrath or Brady Skjei before either blueliner had a chance to play for the Rangers.

Salary cap concerns and an unwillingness to move their top prospects are not the only restriction the Rangers face in making a deadline deal. Teams are always on the lookout for draft picks (especially first and second round picks) – and the Rangers have a problem there as well with their own first round draft pick belonging to the Columbus Blue Jackets as a result of the Rick Nash deal.

The Clowe deal has robbed the Rangers of some of their 2013 assets – their own 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick they acquired from Florida. They may also face losing a 2nd round pick in 2014 if Clowe re-signs with the Rangers or if the team reaches the Eastern Conference Finals.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC says the Rangers are among the teams showing a lot of interest in Curtis Glencross. The LW would be a good fit in Tortorella’s system as he would bring some speed, a physical aspect and two-way play. He can play on the power play, penalty kill, as well as skate a regular turn as a top 6-9 forward. He has scored 20+ goals the last two years, but does have bouts of inconsistency (see, he IS a perfect Ranger).

There are a couple of roadblocks. Other teams might be more willing to “go all in” as compared to the Rangers. Glencross does have a no-movement clause so he would to approve any deal to New York. Also, he has one more year on his contract at $2.55 million before he becomes an UFA. The salary isn’t that unreasonable, but with the cap dropping $6 million next season the Rangers would have to move some pieces before next season.
With the Rangers having limited resources, it might behoove them to concentrate their deadline conversations to strengthening their blue line.

The Rangers have options at forward if they decide to turn Kreider and Miller loose, with Jesper Fast (who practiced with the team on Tuesday) here and Oscar Lindberg potentially looming on the horizon.

The team cannot afford to rely on Marc Staal’s return this season. They need to proceed as if he is out for the rest of the year. If he ends up being ready to play this year then it will be an unexpected bonus.

The big problem is that defensemen are to the NHL what reliable pitching is to Major League Baseball teams – a wanted commodity that is not easy to acquire.

The Rangers could look to the waiver-wire for a cheap (and quick) fix and claim d-man Kurtis Foster who was placed on waivers after Philadelphia acquired Kent Huskins from Detroit after the Red Wings signed collegiate free agent Danny DeKeyser. Got it?

Foster’s defensive ability will not make anyone forget Rod Langway, but his big and booming shot from the point could help the Rangers floundering power play. If Tortorella is only going to give Roman Hamrlik five minutes of ice time, then Foster could get those minutes as a power play specialist.

Cam Barker (Vancouver) and Steve Montador (Chicago) were also waived by their teams. Montador has been out all season with a concussion and, according to The Hockey News, cleared waivers and was assigned to Rockford of the AHL. I was a big Barker fan during his draft year, but he has not lived up to his hype and might not survive the Tortorella “death stare” the first time he missed an assignment that led to a goal against.

One other name to watch is Ryan O’Byrne of Colorado. The 6-foot-5 and 234 pound O’Byrne is a right-handed shooting d-man with a very limited offensive game. However, he does use his size well and is not afraid to drop the gloves if necessary. He is making $1.8 million and is set to be an UFA at the end of the season.

The only problem with O’Byrne is that the Rangers already have three right shooters on the blue line and could really use a lefty shooter to replace Hamrlik in the lineup.

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With the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, business has started to pick up around Madison Square Garden. Yes, there are trade rumors involving all the usual targets (Dan Boyle, Ryan Clowe, Brenden Morrow) and possible trade chips – including rumors of the Blueshirts entertaining offers for Marian Gaborik. However, the biggest intrigue is who will be pulling the trigger on any potential deals.

As Glen Sather undergoes and recuperates from prostate surgery, Assistant GM Jeff Gorton represented the team at the General Manager’s meetings in Toronto. While Sather will still have the final say on any deal, Gorton is probably the person who will do the heavy lifting and the dirty work in any trade the Rangers make – and that might not be such a bad thing.

Gorton, in his brief term as interim GM of the Bruins in 2006, helped lay the groundwork for Boston’s Stanley Cup victory. During his tenure, he engineered the trade that brought Tuuka Rask from Toronto (in exchange for Andrew Raycroft), signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard as free agents, and drafted the likes of Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand.

Whether it is Sather or Gorton leading the trade brigade, the one thing the Rangers have to be mindful of is the $6 million cut the NHL’s salary cap takes next season. While navigating the decrease in the salary cap, the team has to address the RFA status of Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan after this season.

As if that weren’t daunting enough, the Blueshirts have to keep one eye open for the contracts that come up after 2014-2015.

Ryan Callaghan, Marian Gaborik, Dan Girardi, and Henrik Lundqvist are UFA and Michael Del Zotto and Chris Kreider are RFA – and that still doesn’t take into account the loss of UFA depth players like Martin Biron, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman.

As the Rangers stare down the April 3 deadline, the main goal would be to add players who are set to be UFAs at the end of the season – thus limiting the Rangers cap concern to just the final weeks of the regular season. For the Rangers to take on any contracts beyond this season would require them to move a player still under contract beyond this season. That could be a factor in the Rangers gauging interest in Gaborik – someone who might be out of the Rangers cap range when he is a free agent.

With that said, there is still a way for teams to “work around” possible salary implications when discussing trades. Craig Custance of ESPN pointed out that the new CBA allows teams to absorb parts of contracts in trades.

SNY’s Adam Rotter wrote that Custance pointed out that only one trade this year has involved a team absorbing salary as part of a trade – the deal that ssaw Toronto send Matthew Lombardi back to Phoenix.

Rotter spoke with Gorton and the Assistant GM said that the Rangers are doing their due diligence in terms of researching the ins and outs.

“If there’s a money concern on one team and the other team has the ability to keep it, it’s significant,” Gorton told Rotter. “As we move forward it’s going to play a big role in player deals.”

The biggest problem in terms of trying to handicap who the Rangers would target is the fact that the NHL Lockout turned the NHL season from a marathon into a sprint. As a result, as of March 22, the last place team in the Eastern Conference is only eight points out of the 8th spot and only six points separates the 8th and 15th place teams in the Western Conference.

The Florida Panthers might be the only team that could consider themselves out of the playoff hunt for the very same reason that could prevent them from being very active at the trade deadline – injuries. Possible trade targets Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss (an UFA at the end of the year) are out for the season. Mike Weaver and Jose Theodore are out anywhere from 4-6 weeks and Ed Jovanoski was placed on Injured Reserve on St. Patrick’s Day.

However, after polishing off Carolina and the Rangers in back-to-back games, maybe the Panthers playoff chances aren’t so dead after all.

It very well could be with an eye towards the deadline that the Rangers recalled Chris Kreider. It is a good strategy for the Blueshirts to give Kreider another look before committing time, resources, and salary cap space in any trade for a scoring forward.

Coach John Tortorella, at least at the start, is teaming Kreider up with fellow rookie J.T. Miller with Brian Boyle as the center between the two former first round draft picks. While Boyle will not be able to keep up with the speedy Kreider, he does provide some defensive insurance for him (and Miller too).

In an ideal world, Kreider should be getting top six forward minutes but taking a regular shift on the third line helps to ease him back into the regular rotation – especially if Torts can find some time for him on the struggling power play.

With that said, I will have no problem with Tortorella moving Jeff Halpern or Taylor Pyatt up to the third line if the Rangers are trying to protect a one-goal lead in the final 7-10 minutes of the third period.

However, the coach has to be willing to live with some of the growing pains you go through when you play a rookie whose main asset is his offensive ability. Tortorella can’t be benching him for making a regular “mistake” because if that were the case then Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards would be getting a lot of pine time.

Should Kreider play up to, or near, his 2012 playoff performance then the Rangers will have added scoring without giving up anything. That would free the team up to shop for some depth forwards (who would be much cheaper than trying to find an offensive player). They could look to bring in a defensively responsible third line center who would give them more offense, and in turn, allow them to drop Boyle to the fourth line – thus strengthening both of those lines.

The Rangers could also channel their assets into upgrading their defense corps – especially given the uncertain return of Marc Staal. Even if Staal were to return, the Rangers could still use an upgrade and a better sixth defenseman. In this case, the team could look to bring in a defensive d-man who would add a physical presence or they could in the complete opposite direction and look for an offensive d-man to help the power play. Given Tortorella’s preference to shorten the defense rotation, the Blueshirts could get by with a power play specialist as their sixth defenseman.

Following the Florida game, the coach appeared to let it be known that an offensive d-man is high on his priority list.

“We still need someone to take over the power play and run it,” Tortorella said. “I don’t think that’s happened and I’m not sure it ever will.”

I have to respectfully disagree with Torts on this one. After the lockout, the Rangers had a Top 10 power play that was run by Michal Rozsival. The problem with the current team is not the players, it is the way the power play is being run. Constant over-passing, shots that are wide of the net and no forwards crowding the crease are not going to change even if Bobby Orr in his prime were running the power play.

With Staal’s health and availability a big question, I believe the Rangers bigger need is a defenseman who can try to help replace Staal’s play in the defensive zone.

The Rangers have had scouts following the San Jose Sharks who have a pair of defensemen who fits both of the Rangers needs. Doug Murray (UFA this year) would fill the bill of a big physical defensive blueliner.

Dan Boyle (UFA at the end of 2013-2014) would give the Rangers the offensive threat/power play QB the coach wants. The problem with Boyle is that he does have a limited no-trade clause where he can block eight teams.

The main concern with Boyle is trying to fit his $6.7 million contract under next year’s budget while trying to replace Gaborik at forward both this year and next. The Rangers could inquire about Ryan Clowe (UFA this year). According to the CapGeek Trade Calculator, a Gaborik for Boyle and Clowe deal would be “Cap compliant” for both sides. However, there would be two problems.

First off, the Rangers would definitely have to kick in a prospect and/or draft pick to even off the deal. The second problem, and possibly the biggest roadblock, is that Clowe is having a horrendous season to the tune of zero goals and nine assists in 25 games this season. While Clowe fits Tortorella’s style of play, his subpar skating would be a big hit to take while losing Gaborik.

In mid-February, I put together a list of UFA players who might be available. In the month or so since I put together that list, the topsy-turvy nature of the shortened NHL season has seen a team like Columbus (Vinny Prospal anyone) shoot into the thick of the playoff hunt.

In my first draft, this was the place where I talked about how a Rangers winning streak heading into the trade deadline would play into their favor in terms of giving them better bargaining power. Given the fiasco that was the loss to the Panthers, any leverage the Rangers might have taken advantage of was lost.

Failure to accumulate points puts the Rangers in the tenable position of having to decide whether or not they are willing to mortgage the future for a playoff run this year. The team has been able to resist the urge in the past, but expectations were much different coming into this season than they have been in a long time.

It is those lofty expectations that would prevent the Rangers from being sellers at the deadline. Cablevision can ill afford to have the Blueshirts miss the playoffs after raising ticket prices again as the Garden looks ahead to finishing its extensive remodeling.

Putting fishnagles aside, if that is even possible, the Rangers can’t run the risk of missing the playoffs because they don’t even have their first round draft pick – an even bigger loss now that the NHL finally decided to allow all 14 non-playoff teams to have a shot at the first overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. As slim as the Rangers chances would be, it would be their luck to finally end up at the top of the Draft only to watch Columbus use that pick.

That might not mean that much to the average fan, but I bet it means an awful lot to the image-conscience New York Rangers and owner James Dolan

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