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New York Rangers Fan Club

by Toby Ivey

Balance Of Trade
January 18, 2007

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 ever.

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 official.

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 deadline.

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 give up?

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 be traded.

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 starter.

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 forward.

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.


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1/20/2007 cag well thought out!
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