If the Rangers Peruse the Trade Market
It's time to move on and forget about the season that was. It's now time to move onto the season that will be; next season. No one is happy with our first-round flameout; improvement is both desired and needed. So, what does Ranger GM Glen Sather do to improve this club, to make it among the top teams in the East and a contender for Lord Stanley's Cup instead of the fringe playoff team they are now?
Anyone watching the Rangers this season knows they've got a very good top four on the blue line with Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer all under contract or otherwise tied to the team for the foreseeable future. Henrik Lundqvist is inarguably among the better goaltenders in the game. They're definitely in good shape in that end of the ice.
What about up front, what about our forwards? Forwards are expected to generate offense first and foremost. The Rangers were middle-of-the-pack in the goal scoring department last season. They have several nice, gritty players including Brandon Dubinsky (54 points), Ryan Callahan (23 goals in 60 games) and Brandon Prust (career-high 13 goals). That's not too bad; if those players were third liners or second liners, maybe. The problem is only Prust played on the third line last year. Dubi and Cally were top line performers for the Rangers.
Now it's true Callahan had an injury-shortened season. In fact, had he played a full schedule he would have recorded a scoring line of 31.4 goals, 34.2 assists and 65.6 points. That could work on a second line especially given the other things Cally does on the ice.
Those guys lack the high-end skill any real contender has to have to goo far in the playoffs. For more evidence of that, look no further then this year's Stanley Cup semi-finalists. Boston boasts talented forwards like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. They combine that with Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara. Tampa has super-sniper Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier. Vancouver can ice the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler. San Jose has Heatley, Thornton and Marleau. Talent, talent, talent and the Rangers are lacking in it.
The Rangers do have Marian Gaborik. He's an elite goal scorer but he struggled mightily in his second season on Manhattan. He needs help.
Torts said after New York was eliminated from the playoffs that they needed to add skill to the lineup. Yeah, well duh. Most expect the Rangers to make a strong push for the services of free agent center and former Torts soldier, Brad Richards. That makes a ton of sense. He is a legit #1 pivot and also plays a mean point on the PP. Curiously the Rangers could use both of those.
It's almost too logical. Richards would help tremendously. But would his addition be enough?
The Blue Shirts do have some young talent like Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov who could each turn into legitimate top six forwards. Will it happen next season though? I don't know.
Let's say for the sake of argument, and my blog post, that the Rangers do secure the name of Brad Richards on a long term deal. If they decide to look at other scoring options, where could they go?
It's likely the Rangers will need most of their available cap space not only for Richards but in re-signing the several RFA's they have. Those players include; Cally, Dubi, Sauer, Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Matt Gilroy.No, free agency might bring Richards but probably not another proven scorer. If the Rangers want to do more they may have to do it via trade.
So who might the Rangers seek in the trade market? Better yet, who might be available in the trade market? Let's look at a few of the players I think might be available, why they might be available and whether the Rangers could be a good destination.
R.J. Umberger - Columbus Blue Jackets
Umberger has been a valuable forward for the Blue Jackets but pressure is pretty high in Columbus and GM Scott Howson might feel the need to shuffle his deck a little. He's tried hard to land a puck-moving defenseman and may use Umberger to get it.
For his part Umberger's production has been rock solid. He's averaged almost 25 goals and 53 points over the last three seasons. His lowest season goal scoring total during that span was 23 and for points it's 46. Durability is also a strong point for the 29 year-old. He's appeared in all 82 games in each of the last three campaigns.
Umberger has one year left on his deal with a $3.75 million cap hit. I believe the Rangers could afford that but I'm not sure if the Rangers have an available puck-moving d-man Columbus would want in return. I also think Umberger is too much like Dubi and Cally to be considered much of an upgrade over what we have now. He wouldn't be my first choice.
T.J. Oshie - St. Louis Blues
This is pure conjecture on my part. I wonder if the late-season unexcused missed practice, the resulting two-game suspension and potential impatience in Oshie's development might prompt St. Louis to listen in on Oshie.
Oshie, 24, appeared to be on his way to being a solid top-six player for the Blues after a 48 point campaign in 2009-2010. His point production did drop last year but that was due mostly to missing 33 contests due to injury and suspension. If he had played 82 games he was on pace to score 57 points. That's not bad but I have to think the Blues were expecting Oshie to bust out by now.
I'm not sure what the asking price would be for Oshie might be and I don't know how they might match up in a potential swap with New York but If I am Slats and I hear Oshie could be had, that's a call I make.
Shane Doan - Phoenix Coyotes
Doan is a guy I've like for a long time. He's shown tremendous leadership during his time with the Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise. He's stuck with the club through tough times financially when others might have left for greener pastures. He's made himself part of the solution and has captained the Coyotes to two straight surprising playoff berths when few thought they could make it. His leadership would be a great fit anywhere and I would like for Doan to be a Ranger.
Doan has one year left at a cap hit of $4.55 million. He is 35 but has remained productive. Doan has averaged 23 goals and nearly 63 points for the last three seasons. In this year's playoffs, Doan netted three goals in the Coyotes four game loss to the Red Wings. The guy can still play.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, or any other team interested in acquiring the veteran winger, Doan is unlikely to leave Phoenix. If the Coyotes had been sold and transplanted to Winnipeg, the organization would have given him the opportunity to seek a trade. However, with news that the Coyotes will be staying in Phoenix for one more season at least, Doan will likely also remain.
Blake Wheeler - Atlanta Thrashers
From one financially struggling franchise to another, Atlanta is the next team rumored to be relocated to Winnipeg. Wheeler, like many other Thrashers, is a RFA and I wonder if the Thrashers will be able to re-sign him along with D Zach Bogosian and captain Andrew Ladd.
Now Wheeler's best season was his rookie season when he recorded 45 points in 81 games with Boston. Last season he only scored 44 but he did get 17 in 23 games as a member of the Thrashers following a trade deadline deal. Wheeler also played some with Derek Stepan for the US at the recent IIHF World Championship. Could the chemistry they exhibited on the international stage be replicated on Broadway?
I'm not sure what Atlanta's asking price might be. They are known to be looking for another top six forward and a top five defenseman. I'm also assuming they'd like that player to be cheap. Could the Rangers and Thrashers match up on a deal?
Ales Hemsky - Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers are in full rebuild, without question. They entertained moving Hemsky at last year's deadline but no one met the asking price. Maybe this summer is when the veteran winger gets moved.
Hemsky, especially if Richards isn't signed, might be a good fit for the Rangers on a line with Gaborik. He's a great setup guy who has averaged nearly a point-per-game over the last three seasons (130 points in 141 games). As you can tell, Hemsky has missed a bunch of games (105) over the last three seasons too and that's not cool.
Hemsky also carries a $4.1 million cap hit for the final year of his deal. That combined with the cost to acquire him via trade might preclude the Blue Shirts from pulling the trigger on any deal for Hemsky. I also wouldn't feel too good about his injury history either.
In summation, I would love Doan for all he brings to the table but just don't think he'll be available. Of the remainder, I like Wheeler a lot. I think he's got 25 goal potential and as a RFA wouldn't break the bank. The fact he played with Step in the World Championships is a bonus too.
R.I.P Boogey Man
As you all know, the hockey world lost one of its own last week when Derek Boogaard passed away. The cause of death is unknown at this time but rumors are running rampant. Of course it's been reported that Boogaard was enrolled in the NHL's Behavioral Health/Substance Abuse Program. No one has said it aloud but certainly the thought is there.
We also know Boogaard missed the second half of the season with a concussion and a shoulder injury. Some are insinuating that brain trauma, a likely result of fighting, may have played some role in the premature passing of the NHL's most intimidating man.
Truth be told, I don't care why he died. I care that the NHL and the world has lost a terrific guy with a huge heart. I care that his family and friends lost someone they cared deeply for.
As a Rangers fan I was critical of the singing of Boogaard last July. I, like many others, thought we overpaid for his services. We felt justified when Boogaard missed so much of the season with injury. Even when he was in the lineup Torts kept his ice-time way down. In fact, he averaged less than five minutes per game as a Ranger. All told, Boogaard was on the ice for little more than 100 minutes total and contributed a goal and two points.
Heading into the off-season, many of us Rangers fans thought he should be bought out or sent down to Connecticut to clear that cap hit off the books. Now there's little we wouldn't do to have that cap hit and player back. We'd gladly be "saddled" with a $1.65 million cap hit for the next three seasons if it meant Boogaard was here to finish out his contract.
You see, while his production on the ice may not have added up to $1.65 million, his contributions off the ice were worth much, much more. What many of us didn't know about Boogaard was just how active he was in his community. It started in Minnesota and continued here in New York. He was an active supporter of the Defending the Blue Line Foundation which helped children of military families play hockey. Boogaard also started "Boogaard's Booguardians", and hosted military families at MSG for Rangers games.
I'm sure there are countless other charitable acts Boogaard participated in that didn't get noticed and reported by the media. All you have to know you can find out from current and former teammates who were, to a man, devastated by the passing of the Boogey Man. They remember how kind he was, how much he cared for others. They've taken to Twitter to express their thoughts on Boogaard's passing. Reading those has opened my eyes to something I never saw before; that I never knew the real Derek Boogaard and that makes me feel I missed out on something great.
It's taken me this long to really try to comprehend what happened to Boogey. I still don't understand. What I do know is we've lost one of the real good guys and that is sad. I'd like to offer my heart-felt and deepest sympathies to the family and friends of a guy many of us weren't fortunate enough to know well.