I woke up from a nap to see the Clowe trade. My first thought was, "damn it." It's not that I have anything against Ryane Clowe. It's that it was, at first glance, an incredibly steep price to pay for a guy who has struggled offensively this season. Especially with the 2013 1st rounder sent to Columbus in the Nash deal, can we really afford to move our 2013 2nd rounder as well?
But like any rational (HA!) fan, I decided to step back and review all aspects of the trade before really deciding how I feel about it. And in doing so I'm beginning to form some different opinions on the deal. Let's analyze the trade a bit deeper and see how it might make some sense for the Rangers.
Let's get this out of the way first: Ryane Clowe has zero goals this season. Perfect fit for the Rangers! Ha ha! Hilarious! Are we done?
Getting 65 shots on goal and having zero go in goes way beyond skill; that is absolutely absurd (bad) luck. Fear The Fin confirms this:
"There's also the whole Clowe approaching the one-year anniversary of the last time he scored a goal in the NHL thing but it's likely that most GMs see this streak for the unfortunate run of percentages that it is (the hockey gods exacting revenge on Clowe for playing the puck from the bench, presumably) rather than an indication he's fallen off the map as a player."
The law of averages dictates that pucks soon have to start going in for Clowe, and if that starts now then Sather will look like a genius. Hes probably not the 25 goal scorer he once was but he sure as hell isn't a single-digits (or zero) goal scorer, either.
The goal struggle has undermined what Clowe HAS done well offensively; set others up. Clowe missed seven games with the Sharks and still ranked tied for third on the team in assists with 11; only Thornton and Pavelski had more (and in more games played.) He's not your typical playmaker in the way you'd think of a Pavel Datsyuk or Martin St. Louis but he does create goals for his team. At 6'2 and 225 pounds he fits the mold of a power forward and opens up a lot of space for his linemates. He's a pain to deal with on the boards and will help gain possession in the offensive zone. Even if he isn't physically scoring goals himself, he's going to be an upgrade offensively one way or another.
The offense he (potentially) brings is important, but it is easy to see why Sather picked up Clowe and not a different winger; Clowe fits this team's identity to a T. If Brandon Prust had 20 goal, 50 point ability then he would be pretty damn close to what Ryane Clowe is. He brings energy every shift. He is second on the Sharks in hits (again, despite missing seven games). And he's going to fight. Rest assured that the first time Ryane Clowe is on the ice when Lundqvist gets run or someone gets in Gaborik's face he'll drop the gloves regardless of whom it is against. You're not going to get the PK minutes you get from Prust, but his offensive abilities more than make up for that. He's the inferior player at this point in his career, but Clowe is basically our Milan Lucic. Even Tortorella admitted that our bottom-six has lost its edge with some of the offseason departures. Clowe is someone who will help to fix that. He's a heart and soul player who leaves it all out on the ice and will stick up for his team.
This is all nice, but an acquisition can only be evaluated by factoring in what the move cost. The Rangers gave up a 2nd and 3rd this year and a conditional 2nd next year. It's not an easy price to swallow, but that's the nature of the trading deadline. There are more teams looking to add quality players than there are quality players available, and as a result prices are inflated. A similar (and probably worse) player in Brenden Morrow cost the Penguins a high-end defensive prospect. Sharks GM Doug Wilson reportedly wanted a similar kind of return, which he ultimately did not get. The wildcard here is that conditional 2nd rounder. The Sharks get our 2014 2nd rounder if the Rangers re-sign Clowe (or if the Rangers win two playoff rounds). Kevin posted earlier that the Rangers and Clowe have agreed to the basis for a contract extension, and thus it's probable that Clowe will be a Ranger beyond this year. It's reasonable to assume that Clowe is taking a discount of sorts compared to what he could get on the open market, and thus Sather is not only paying the Sharks for the rental this year, but also to have exclusive rights to Clowe prior to free agency and therefore sign him at a better contract. A look at the potential free agent market for left wingers this summer comes up with an underwhelming group highlighted by Vinny Prospal, Mason Raymond, Dustin Penner, and Brenden Morrow. Not exactly an inspiring list.
So what's the final verdict on this deal? I'm not ready to give it. There are too many factors involved that haven't been decided yet. I'm still not in love with giving up the 2nd and 3rd this year since we don't have our 1st from the Nash trade. But that is around market price and the Rangers were going to have to part with some pieces if any moves were going to be made. We need to see how Clowe performs this year and how far the Rangers go. We need to see if a contract is, in fact, signed, and what the terms of the deal are. In the mean time, this much I can say: Clowe is a sorely needed addition to this team in terms of offense and especially in terms of adding some heart, character, and energy to a team that lost a lot of that in the offseason. I have no doubt that he's going to do something in his first few games as a Ranger to set an example and make his presence known, whether it be with a multiple point night or a fight or something else. Peruse San Jose blogs and forums and you'll see the same words popping up to describe Clowe. "Warrior" is one. "Hates losing" are two others. I think there is a room for that kind of player on this team. In fact, it might be just what the doctor ordered.
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