It doesn't seem so long ago that we were discussing the lockout here at the New York Rangers Blog. Yet, believe it or not, we are only three weeks away from the trading deadline (April 3rd). We're still a while away from the bulk of moves being made or even the typical pandemonium in the rumor mill, but we're just about at the point where names start floating around. So why not create a base for what to expect in the next few weeks? While this is not an absolute, all-ecomposing list, it is, in my opinion at least, a pretty good aggregation of likely trade chips and trade targets for the Rangers as far as we can tell right now.
Potential Trade Chips:
Brian Boyle: Boyle has played well since his return from the press box, but that is too little to late in terms of saving himself from trade speculation. JT Miller has successfully surpassed him on the depth chart for the time being and Richards and Stepan aren't going anywhere. He scored 32 goals over the previous two seasons and is an experienced penalty killer, so a decent number of teams would be willing to add him for depth and hope a change of scenery lights a fire under him. If the Rangers need to trade a player to open up a roster spot or cap space for a different move, Brian Boyle is as likely to depart as anyone.
Marian Gaborik: Coming off his second 40+ goal season with the Rangers, John Tortorella was surely hoping to see more than 8 goals and 17 points in the 25 games the team has played so far. Rick Nash has firmly planted himself as the team's first line right winger and Ryan Callahan is not going anywhere. While nobody has outright said that the Rangers are shopping Gaborik, a few hockey writers – the latest being Andrew Gross – have speculated about the possibility. The Rangers are trying to win a Stanley Cup and, struggles or not, Gaborik is a superior player than anyone the Rangers will likely find available. If Gaborik is moved at all, it will probably be during the offseason. Still, he isn't completely safe.
Christian Thomas: He's played fairly decently in his first professional season, earned a game in the NHL, and is the best pure scorer the Rangers have in their prospect pool. Kreider and McIlrath are not going anywhere, though, so that leaves Thomas as the best trade piece in Connecticut. If the right impact player is available and Sather feels it could be be a difference maker, he might have to let go of Thomas to make it happen.
3rd Round Pick(s): The Rangers currently own their own, Nashville's, and Florida's third round picks in the upcoming draft, and they could end up with Columbus' as well depending on how far the Rangers go in the playoffs. That's a clear surplus, and therefore makes one or two of those picks obvious trade pieces in order to acquire some depth.
Dan Boyle: It's unlikely that the Rangers make any huge moves, but if there is one "big" acquisition that makes sense, it's that of Dan Boyle. The Sharks are battling just to make the playoffs, and have only two non-shootout wins since February 2nd. Boyle is 36 years old and will be a free agent at the end of next season, and you have to wonder if it makes more sense for them to move him while they can still get value instead of keeping him just to push for a late playoff berth. As for the Rangers, the fit is fairly obvious. The Rangers wouldn't hurt to add defense of any kind, and one with powerplay abilities would be a significant addition. He played his best hockey under Tortorella in Tampa so the familiarity is there.
Brenden Morrow: The Rangers were linked to him at the trading deadline last season as well as during the offseason. Dallas currently sit 11th in the Western Conference and Morrow, and impending free agent, has become much less important to the Stars with the additions of Jagr and Ray Whitney. With only 11 points in 23 games this season, Morrow is clearly not the player he once was. Still, he would be a good veteran to have in the locker room and would add a scoring presence to the bottom-six.
Mike Ribeiro: NHL Network's E.J. Hradek casually mentioned on NHL Live that the Rangers as a possible suitor for Capitals' forward Mike Ribeiro. The Capitals are a lot closer to a lottery pick than a playoff spot right now, and Ribeiro, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, is very likely to be on the move. The Nash trade put a dent in the Rangers' trading and prospect pool, perhaps most importantly leaving them without a 2013 1st round pick to dangle, and Ribeiro will be one of the best players on the market. It's not an easy trade to hypothetically work out, but the Rangers would benefit from adding a player with talent like Ribiero's.
Ales Hemsky: The Oilers are once again a lottery team and have an absurd pool of young forwards with Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov. Hemsky would be a logical odd-man out, though he does have one more year on the two-year extension he signed in the offseason, Hemsky has been chronically linked to the Rangers and the obvious Sather-Edmonton link is there.
Ryan Whitney: Hemsky's teammate Ryan Whitney is another name to look out for. He'll be a free agent at the end of the season and seems unlikely to sign a contract with the Oilers. He'll likely be moved at some point. He can skate and is a solid contributer offensively, though perhaps his stats and underwhelming in comparison to his potential. He can be suspect defensively but, unlike in Edmonton, his role would be limited thanks to the defensive capabilities of Staal, Girardi, and McDonagh. Defensemen who can skate have a significant advantage in Tortorella's system and he'd be a clear upgrade over Bickel/Hamrlik/Gilroy and probably Eminger as well.
Jordan Leopold: If Lindy Ruff is sent packing then not a single person in the Buffalo Sabres' organization is safe. The Sabres are firmly out of a playoff spot and the Ruff firing signifies a slew of changes coming. Leopold is a free agent at the end of the season and would provide the Sabres some prospect depth for a seemingly inevitable rebuild. Though he has underachieved this season with only 4 points in 17 games, he had two consecutive 10+ goal seasons prior to this one and would, like Whitney, be an upgrade to the defense while providing some much needed offense from the point.
Please recognize that this is simply a list of what I see as realistic; not my own personal wish list. Just because a player is listed here as a potential trade chip or trade target does not mean I am necessarily endorsing the move.
A few weeks left until the deadline means a few weeks for all sorts of speculation and rumors, ranging from credible to completely irrational, will be hitting the internet. Pretty much half the NHL will at some point be linked to the Rangers, and most of it will not actually come to fruition. Remember to take most things with a grain of salt and, PLEASE, make sure you actually verify the validity of a twitter account before you aimlessly retweet it. There will be all sorts of fake Pierre McGuire and Darren Dreger accounts out there. And, of course, make sure to check back at the New York Rangers Blog constantly as we'll make sure to keep you up to date on the latest rumors and speculation as we approach the trading deadline.
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