The NHL trade deadline (February 27th - 3pm
Eastern) is just over a month away and there's been only limited
movement to date. Of course the NHL salary cap has been largely
singled out as the culprit for the lack of player movement, after all
there are a number of General Managers in the league who gave themselves
very little room to accommodate additional salary, and may instead be
forced to "make do" with what they had. But it's not the only
reason for the lack of movement, there's also the small matter of the
trade deadline being moved up a couple of weeks from where it used to be.
This in effect means that the number of teams "selling" players has
decreased, while those still considering themselves in the playoff race
will increase. Net result, it's even more a seller's market than
The New York Rangers have, with the exception of the 2004 deadline,
never really considered themselves to be sellers and the same appears to
be applicable this year as they sit in the eighth spot in the Eastern
Conference, with just 40 days to go before the halt to trading is made
For their part, New York does have some room to move, with the ability
to take on maybe as much as 3-4 million of additional salary for this
year (pro-rated of course). They can also afford to take on a
little salary for next season, with the likes of Kevin Weekes ($2M) ,
Sandis Ozolinsh ($2.5), Karel Rachunek ($1.8), Brendan Shanahan ($4.0),
Michael Nylander ($2.3) and a bunch of sub-million dollar salaries
dropping off the roster. There's also the expected $4M increase in
the salary cap to factor in.
Bottom line: While dollars are
always going to be a concern for teams under the salary cap, the Rangers
do have some flexibility when it comes to making deals this trade
What is likely to be of more concern is which players the Rangers will
likely have to give up in order to make any of the deals they might be
contemplating. The old adage "you have to give up something to get
something" is very much applicable to the Rangers this season. Yes
it would be nice if the Rangers could unload players like Marek Malik,
Darius Kasparaitis, Sandis Ozolinsh, Kevin Weekes, Marcel Hossa, Jason
Ward, Adam Hall etc, but unless a team actually wants those guys, then
it's going to be hard to make a deal, not to mention having to find
players that fill the positions that you've just traded away.
Another area of concern is the number of players the Rangers already
have under contract. There is a limit of 50 players for each NHL
team under contract at any one time. The Blueshirts currently have
48 (plus two that don't count against that limit this year in Marc Staal
and Michael Sauer) and have several players they will need to make
decisions on before June 1st, or risk losing their rights.
Finally there's also the matter of
protecting organizational depth, you obviously want to trade from a
position of depth or strength, looking to find players who fill needs on
the team both this season and going forward.
So now that we understand the limiting
factors and considerations, what do the Rangers need, and what can they
If we look in goal first of all then the
Rangers clearly have only limited depth in the organization, with just
five goaltenders and all of them playing in the pro ranks already.
Chris Holt is unlikely to have any value and Henrik Lundqvist is of
course a low-cost starter so we can immediately discount those two in
terms of considering a trade. That leaves Kevin Weekes, Stephen
Valiquette and Al Montoya as potential bargaining chips.
In Weekes the Rangers have a player who will be a UFA this year, has
struggled to secure a starting position in the NHL and has not been
consistent as a backup. He's due around $650-750K for the
remainder of the season, and would require the Rangers to pick up
another netminder, either as the new backup, or to provide extra depth
within the organization. Finding a team looking for a guy like
Weekes might be a tough ask too, unless the team is looking to add
veteran depth in goal to back up an inexperienced starter, which is few
and far between in the league this year. Chances are that Weekes
will remain a Ranger until his contract runs out this Summer.
Valiquette also appears to have little if any trade value. As a
veteran AHL goaltender, he has split time almost evenly with Al Montoya
and has managed only a handful starts in his ten year pro-career.
Is he good enough to be an NHL backup? Perhaps, and he might be an
option if the Rangers do find a taker for Weekes, but probably will not
Montoya probably has some value in a trade, but unproven goalies tend to
be undervalued in the NHL. It is probably better for the
organization if they can wait and see, perhaps looking at their options
when and if he starts to put pressure on Henrik Lundqvist as the
On defense, there are several "candidates", but perhaps again the
options will be limited. Sandis Ozolinsh is of course perhaps the
prime candidate for being moved, but his poor play with the Rangers,
plus his health over the past two seasons, not to mention about 800K
worth or salary outstanding on his contract will likely limit his
appeal. Darius Kasparaitis too is another defenseman who the
Rangers would consider moving, but with another year on his contract at
an unwieldy $3M salary cap hit, it would seem unlikely that they'll be
able to find a viable partner.
By contrast, Marek Malik, Aaron Ward and Michal Rozsival are perhaps a
little more affordable to prospective buyers. They do each have
another year on their contracts around the $2.5 million mark, but their
ability to play a lot may be attractive to some teams. The biggest
drawback here will be finding players who could back fill their playing
time. As is widely known, the Rangers lack defensemen who can play
as first line defensemen against the best the opposition has to offer,
and while it would be preferential to upgrade some of these positions it
will probably have to be done from the outside in the short term.
The most "valuable" trading chips might very well be Karel Rachunek and
Thomas Pock. Neither is a top line defenseman, but both are young
and both will be UFAs this Summer and have relatively affordable cap
hits, and the potential to contribute some to the offensive side of the
puck. Also in that category you could consider Fedor Tyutin, but
it would seem that the Rangers would be best served keeping him in the
organization, at least until some of the other blueline prospects prove
they're capable of playing in the NHL.
Amongst the forward ranks, you can pretty much rule out the trading of
any of the top four forwards. With a well established need for
secondary scoring, only a "ridiculous" offer would pry one of Martin
Straka, Michael Nylander, Jaromir Jagr or Brendan Shanahan from the
Rangers organization. That leaves the lesser lights as potential
targets for would-be trading partners.
Of those, the most sought after would appear to be Petr Prucha.
After scoring 30 goals last year, Prucha's drop off (10 goals in 48
games) can probably be partially attributed to his lack of ice time on
the first power play unit, but perhaps more troubling has been his drop
off in intensity and defensive play. Prucha is only 24 and has a
very affordable contract, but is one of the few Rangers draft picks
playing on the roster, and there's likely to be some sort of fan
dissatisfaction with any trade that he is involved in. Chances are
though that the young Czech will be amongst those to go in any trade of
significance to the team.
Whether Adam Hall and Jason Ward have much trade value is debatable.
Ward becomes a UFA this summer, and Hall is still only 26, albeit he
makes close to $1M a year. Both have been healthy scratches in the
past two games, not generally a good sign when you're trying to trade
them. Any trade involving the two is likely either to be a
peripheral move or perhaps as add-ons to a larger deal. Hall would
seem to be the more likely of the two to be moved, with some success on
the power play he might find a team looking for help there, while Ward's
utility play might draw some interest elsewhere.
Jed Ortmeyer and Blair Betts appear to be well-liked by the organization
and play positions or styles that the Rangers are short on.
Neither is untouchable by any stretch, but it would seem unlikely,
particularly in the case of Betts, that the team would get more value
than they would simply by keeping him.
Another player the Rangers would no doubt like to move is Matt Cullen.
Cullen has struggled to match the success he had in Carolina last year,
and the Rangers appear to have overestimated his ability. The
challenge here will be finding a team willing to take $2.5M a year for
the next three years, for what in effect is a third line utility
Of the remaining forwards, Colton Orr and Ryan Hollweg would probably
attract only modest interest and probably best serve the Rangers as
depth players while Marcel Hossa might have the ability to interest one
more team before his NHL career runs it's course, but again he's
unlikely to attract much of value.
The Rangers could also turn to the minors for help in trading, and there
is a definite glut in 3rd/4th line forwards amongst the players in
Hartford and beyond. There's also liable to be interest in the
likes of Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes and Ivan Baranka, and it may suit
the Rangers needs to move some of these dependent on the return.
Ultimately while there are several
players that many of the Blueshirt faithful would like to see moved, the
opportunities for moving these players is likely to be limited given the
Rangers position in the playoff race. Barring a total collapse in
the next month, chances are the team will again be buyers at the
deadline and the price for any move will not be cheap. It also may
not make sense to try and address long term needs for this team at this
point as the price could be a lot lower after the season is done.
The primary positional needs would appear to be center and then help on
defense. In terms of non-positional needs, the Rangers could
certainly use additional physical players as well as scoring depth,
unfortunately these are exactly the types of players that many other
teams will be looking for, and so once again we may find the team
largely standing pat as they did last year.