This is an article that would seem like a knee-jerk reaction to last night's loss. But it's not. I actually started putting it together prior to the game. As nice as this little surge from the Rangers has been, reality is that every team goes through good and bad spurts over an 82-game season. The Bruins are 2-4-1 in their last seven. The Islanders are 7-2-0 in their last nine. The Kings are 3-6-1 in their last 10. I don't think any of those streaks truly embody what each of those teams is about. As great as the Rangers have been in the last handful of games, it does not undermine multiple months of mediocrity. We're not quite at Judgement Day yet, so there is time for the Rangers to go on a run and change their outlook. As of now, though, the Rangers have 11 games left to play before the week leading up to the trading deadline. Glen Sather and management have a decision to make; stick with the current group, hope to claw its way into a playoff spot and happen to catch lightning in a bottle during the playoffs, or concede defeat this season and look towards next year (and beyond). Now, how likely Sather is to swallow his pride and give up on the season is questionable. As I see it, though, the benefits of putting the team in a better position for the future far outweighs the likelihood of any tangible success from this current group. I don't view yet another low playoff seed and first or second round exit as success.
Perhaps my sentiment will change 10 games from now. And, again, I'm skeptical of Sather buying in to the idea of trading off assets and regrouping. But let's flirt with the idea now, if only for academic purposes. What kind of haul could the Rangers bring in as sellers at the trading deadline and how would that play into the following offseason?
Let's compare the Rangers' impending Unrestricted Free Agents to similar players of years' past who were traded at the deadline so we can get an idea of what Glen Sather is working with.
High-End Comparables: Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh for 1st, Ken Agostino, Ben Hanowski (2013) ; Ilya Kovalchuk, Anssi Salmela, and 2nd to New Jersey for Johnny Oduya, Nicklas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, 1st, and 2nd (2010)
Low-End Comparables: Vaclav Prospal to Philadelphia for Alex Picard, 2nd (2008) ; Ryane Clowe to Rangers for 2nd, 3rd, Conditional 2nd (2013)
Context: It wasn't easy finding great comparables for Callahan, but I think that speaks largely to how rare it is for a player of his caliber to hit the market as a rental. I think the two best to look at here are Clowe and Iginla. Clowe was in the middle of the worst season of his career, with no goals through 28 games and some signs of slowing down. On the flip side, Iginla also was not having his greatest season statistically, though that could largely be excused due to the pathetic nature of the Flames. Nonetheless, Iginla was the top rental on the market. Supreme veteran and leader. Highly talented offensive forward also capable of a physical game. Iginla's offensive ability was a class above Callahan's, but Iginla's value was dramatically hindered by a No-Movement Clause; there are no roadblocks to trading Callahan. Whereas Iginla seemed helbent on picking the team he was going to (as was his right) the Rangers could theoretically move Callahan to any of the 29 other teams. Even still, Iginla brought in a 1st and two solid prospects. Though he's a lesser asset than Iginla, Callahan gives Sather market leverage that the Flames did not own. Realistically, I think we could expect a 1st round pick at a bare minimum, and likely either another 2nd or equivalent prospect along with a roster filler.
High-End Comparables: Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis for Reto Berra, Marc Cundari, 1st, Conditional 4th (2013) ; Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, 1st, Conditional 2nd (2011)
Low-End Comparables: Nicklas Grossmann to Philadelphia for 2nd, 3rd (2012) ; Jordan Leopold to St. Louis for 2nd, 5th (2013)
Context: Dan Girardi had a rough start to the season defensively but has since picked up his game. Girardi is not ideal for Vigneault's system, which relies heavily on skating, as opposed to Tortorella's, which matches Girardi's grinding, shot-blocking nature perfectly. In any case, even Doug Murray, clearly on the decline, earned the Sharks two 2nd round picks last year. Bouwmeester and Kaberle were in a class above Girardi for sure, so I don't think he would bring in a haul quite like that, but with how the projected trading market is looking Girardi would almost definitely be the top defensemen available. Supply and demand is everything, and so I don't think it's unreasonable to believe Girardi could haul in a 1st round pick, a B+ prospect, and maybe another prospect/pick. And that might be underselling it a bit. In a total doomsday scenario, I think the Murray deal or Robyn Regehr's deal last season, also netting two 2nd round picks, are the absolute bottom. He's certainly a more valuable asset than either Grossmann or Leopold.
High-End Comparables: Paul Gaustad and 4th to Nashville for 1st (2012) ; Jeff Halpern to Los Angeles for Teddy Purcell, 3rd (2010)
Low-End Comparables: Sam Pahlsson to Vancouver for two 4th's (2012) ; Michal Handzus to Chicago for 4th
Context: Brian Boyle has his share of faults and frustrating traits. There is no doubt about it. His hands of stone and hesitance to get optimal use out of his large frame can be headache-inducing. Nonetheless, he's exactly the kind of bottom-six center that contending teams look to acquire. He's very good on faceoffs. He's a great penalty killer. He can chip in the occasional goal and he's a great team guy. You can disagree all you want, but at the end of the day Glen Sather admitted in the summer that he received a number of calls on Brian Boyle. And Mike Babcock, arguably the most successful and respected head coach in the NHL today, admires him. He's doing something right to earn that kind of respect within the league. The Guastad trade was bizarre from the beginning and I don't think San Jose got the best value out of Handzus. Perhaps the Halpern trade is the best comparable here. Though he's developed into a very solid player, Purcell was a struggling project in Los Angeles prior to being moved to Tampa Bay, so the trade was much more understandable then as opposed to how it looks four years after the fact. Sather could conceivably milk a 2nd out of a team if the market is being cooperative, but at least a 3rd is definitely a reasonable expectation.
High-End Comparables: Johnny Oduya to Chicago for 2nd, 3rd (2012) ; Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey for Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster, 2nd, 3rd (2012)
Low-End Comparables: Bryan McCabe to New York for Tim Kennedy, 3rd (2011) ; Andrew Alberts to Vancouver for 3rd (2010)
Context: Stralman's value seems pretty straight forward. He's far from an All-Star defenseman but he's reliable in both ends of the ice and has consistently been a 16-19 minute defenseman for the Rangers over the last few seasons. Though there's room for variance, defensemen of his caliber seem to garner 2nd round picks. Leopold got the 2nd and 5th. Chris Campoli got a 2nd and filler. Derek Seidenberg got a 2nd in 2010 (with filler on both sides as well) as did Denis Grebeshkov. I think a 2nd for Stralman is perfectly fair value, though I could see Sather squeezing another pick or prospect out of another team as well given the poor market for defensemen.
High-End Comparables: Andrei Kostitsyn to Nashville for 2nd, Conditional 5th (2012) ; Wojtek Wolski to Florida for Mike Vernace, 3rd (2012)
Low-End Comparables: Matt D'Agostini, Conditional 7th to St. Louis for Conditional 4th/5th (2013) ; Erik Christensen, 7th to Minnesota for Casey Wellman (2012)
Context: Pouliot, AKA Captain Taco, is the opposite of Stralman. He's enigmatic and volatile and his value surely is reflected in that. When he's at his best, he's an incredibly talented winger capable of a number of things in the offensive zone. At that peak production I could think of more absurd scenarios than Sather wrestling a 2nd away from some desperate GM. At his worst, he's a totally irrelevant commodity who is insivisible on the ice and would be lucky to get picked up via waivers. We've seen both sides of him this season. His value is dependent on how he's played in the couple weeks prior to the deadline, the market, the desperation levels of certain teams, and probably a measure of timing and good/bad luck. My most balanced look at Pouliot makes me believe that a non-contending team looking to add offensive depth while not being in a position to break the bank on any of the top rentals might toss a 4th Sather's way.
High-End Comparables: Sam Pahlsson to Vancouver for two 4th's (2012) ; Mike Brown to Edmonton for 4th (2013)
Low-End Comparables: Jerred Smithson to Nashville for 6th (2012) ; Petteri Nokelainen to Anaheim for 6th (2010)
Context: Dominic Moore has been moved at the deadline a number of his times in his career, and his value has consistently been a 2nd, though sometimes a 3rd. Unfortunately for the Rangers Moore has aged and his play has declined. He's still a nice, well-rounded depth player with a lot of experience that any playoff team would love to add. He has a bit more offensive upside than a guy like Smithson, though I don't think he's at Pahlsson's value, either. A 4th or 5th seems reasonable.
High-End Comparables: John Scott to New York for 5th (2012) ; Brad Winchester to Anaheim for 3rd (2011)
Low-End Comparables: Brandon Segal to Tampa Bay for Future Considerations (2012) ; Voros to Anaheim for Future Considerations (2011)
Context: Trading Carcillo so soon after acquiring him? It could happen. Just ask Pascal Dupuis, who was moved close to the deadline six games after the Rangers acquired him. I'm not even going to waste my time analyzing this. John Scott got a 5th. JOHN SCOTT. I'm far from a big Dan Carcillo fan, but Dan Carcillo might as well be Pavel Datsyuk compared to John Scott. Jody Shelley got a 6th. JODY SHELLEY. Carcillo at least can skate five strides without falling over and he can chip in a couple goals. Surely some team would give up a 5th or 6th for Carcillo, no? If not, then Sather might as well just keep him as a warm body for the rest of the season. We would still have to put players on the ice for the remainder of the season.
I understand that throwing in the towel is not a fun idea; especially after coming so close to winning it all two seasons ago. I'm looking at this with all emotion removed. Despite the recent success, the Rangers are currently closer to a top-10 draft pick than they are to top-10 in the NHL. We can play the what-if game where everything clicks for the Rangers at the right time and they go on a Cinderella run in the playoffs, but that's largely wishful thinking. In the last 19 seasons only two teams below 4th in the Conference have won the Stanley Cup; one of which was the Devils in a lockout-shortened year. In all likelihood, we're looking at this team peaking out as a 1st or 2nd round playoff exit team, and that does absolutely nothing to help the cause.
I see moving most or all of these guys as a temporary step back for the sake of the greater good. Adding a whole slew of picks and prospects would give management a lot to work with in the summer. Based on reasonable valuations, the Rangers could end up with one or two first round picks on top of their natural first rounder, which would likely be somewhere between 7th and 12th. And they'd have a whole slew of 2nd and/or 3rd rounders as well. That would really re-stock the farm system, and with all those picks they could package some picks to move up in the draft or make a trade for some NHL talent. And letting some of these guys walk, combined with a Brad Richards amnesty buyout, would give management a hell of a lot of cap space to utilize. Guys like Girardi and Callahan are very good players and have been great servants to the team, but we've seen the likes of Brian Leetch and Adam Graves leave before; life goes on. It's 2014, and the likes of Stepan, Kreider, and McDonagh are moving up the ladder. Those guys combined with an established core of Lundqvist, Nash, Staal, Zuccarello, Hagelin… it's possible the Rangers could not skip a beat and go right back to competitive hockey for next season while being in a much better position long-term.
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