Jed Ortmeyer

The Price is Right?

by Matt Waxman

At this point it should be apparent what the Rangers are, and that is a mediocre team. They are not an offensive team, nor are they a defensive team of late. This is a team in limbo. There are several ways this can play out, but first a review.

At the start of the season the New York Rangers were seemingly playing the game the way it should be played, but found themselves offensively challenged. The team weathered the difficult start, adhering to the defensive rhetoric of the coaching staff, and eventually found a way to score just enough, winning 9 out of 10 games. Unfortunately, the ship shifted course, as the team seemed determined to change their offensive woes despite their success. In addition, opposing coaches began making adjustments, which further stymied the Rangers. The current results: a 22-21-6 record, last in the Atlantic Division, and ninth in the Eastern Conference.

The real interesting part of the season, the Trade Deadline, is coming and will result in one of three things for the New York Rangers, assuming status quo, which is not to say free-falling, but mediocrity, about a 50% winning percentage.

BUY

Glen Sather could go to Johnson & Johnson and order the largest band-aid ever produced in an effort to at least qualify for the playoffs. This, in actuality, is fairly possible considering the team is a mere two points away from taking the 8 seed at present, especially if the mandate from the higher echelons of management is to at least make the playoffs. Of course, though, it would be silly to trade assets that could be an integral part of the team next season. Since the return of the NHL it seems Sather is determined to maintain a reasonable quantity of prospects, which should signal that such a move is not coming. Maybe Glen the Savior will make a move resembling the one for Petr Sykora made a couple of seasons ago. I offer the name Michael Ryder, not suggesting he would be targeted, but a player of his ilk’a free agent at the end of the season, a struggling but previously proven commodity that may simply need a change of scenery.

STAY

There is also the possibility that Glen Sather will stand pat. Sather could holdout hope that the team will come together and make the playoffs, at which point it could potentially repeat last season’s performance. If the team fails to make the playoffs Sather can simply retool the roster given the number of potential free agents.

SELL

Perhaps the likeliest of all is dumping all free agents and veterans that will not be part of the team’s future. In my opinion, this is by far the best option, assuming status quo. Of course, if a free-fall ensues this is a must. There are several factors that account for my opinion. First, there is an awful lot of youth on this team, which could benefit from more ice time, which would be possible if the team goes into dump mode. Consider the fact that what I have christened the ‘Young Blood line’ (Prucha-Dubinsky-Dawes) has been the most consistent line of late. Second, there are a few players that could bring a lot back in the form of prospects and draft picks given the sellers’ market. Keep in mind that the draft this year is reportedly very deep too. So, with this said, who would I trade and who would I keep?

Staying or Going?

Sean Avery
Sean Avery has certainly shown his value given the team’s record with and without him; however, I believe his skills put him as a tweener. That is, Avery is somewhere between a second and third line player, which means he is a very good third line player, but is he willing to play there for this organization and as an unrestricted free agent what salary will he receive? I believe other teams will price Avery out of the Rangers’ plans should he hit the market, therefore, I say trade him. Some of you might see Avery as a second liner and that’s fair, but does his production warrant a contract exceeding $3 million, which is what he will likely be paid. Consider that Slava Kozlov has a cap hit of $3.67 million, Maxim Afinogenov has a cap hit of $3.33 million, and Ray Whitney and Justin Williams have a cap hit of $3.5 million, and let’s not forget Martin Straka‘s cap hit of $3.3 million.

Possible Destination: Detroit- Supposedly looking for depth and could use grit come playoff time.

What I would be realistically asking for: 2nd or 3rd Round 2008 Draft Pick and a prospect.

Blair Betts
There is no question Blair Betts must remain on this team. Betts is one of the most consistent performers on the team and one of the best defensive forwards in the league, and is paid very reasonably. If a purge does occur I would like to see Blair Betts get an opportunity to play more minutes with true scoring wingers, not the likes of Jason Ward, since at the age of 27 it is still possible that Betts could develop into a true two-way center, although the configuration of the roster may not allow it.

Nigel Dawes
At 22 years old there is no way you trade him, especially with the chemistry he has demonstrated with Dubinsky and Prucha.

Chris Drury
The recently signed center is likely a player that cannot be traded given his salary and contract length. However, Drury is the most likely captain of this team next season and should be retained more for his intangibles than his production.

Brandon Dubinsky
In my opinion, Dubinsky is the most promising young player on this team, need I say more? Given a purge I make the aforementioned Young Blood Line the first line.

Scott Gomez
Gomez’s situation is much like that of Drury’s. The no-trade clause in his contract makes the chances of Gomez switching teams slim to none. Gomez has played as advertised. I would say any trade involving Gomez would likely occur in the off-season, but I don’t think any trade will occur.

Ryan Hollweg
While Hollweg plays hard and has tremendous skill for a fourth line enforcer type I’m never going to say he must be retained, but I wouldn’t say he has to be traded. If a team approaches you interested in him you listen.

Marcel Hossa
Who wants him? Plus, you’ll need someone to play given a roster purge. Hossa will likely not reach his potential, but could be a good third or fourth line player. I’d rather have him in the line-up every night than Colton Orr. Let him ride out his contract and then part ways. If you want to try and sign Marian Hossa in the off-season, however, having Marcel on your team would probably help.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr had two great seasons with the Rangers, but given his age and the direction the team is going in it will probably be best to trade him to a team that could really benefit from his presence. Jagr will be a free agent at the end of the season and may retire from the NHL, so Jagr isn’t guaranteed to be a part of this team even if he is not traded.

Possible Destination: Pittsburgh, San Jose. Both teams project to make the playoffs and reportedly want to make an addition. Pittsburgh in particular would like a winger to play with Crosby and now with his injury the Pens could use another scorer to help shoulder the load.

What I would be realistically asking for:
From Pittsburgh: Jordan Staal and a 1st Round 2008 Draft Pick
From San Jose: Jonathan Cheechoo/Steve Bernier and a 1st Round 2008 Draft Pick

Colton Orr
I don’t think anyone would really be interested; he’s one dimensional and probably the worst skater in the entire NHL. A team cannot be a Stanley Cup contender with a player like Colton Orr playing almost every game against the opposing team’s top line. Trade him if anyone wants him.

Petr Prucha
Petr is still young and talented, so it wouldn’t make much sense to trade him for a prospect a couple of years away from being NHL-ready and/or a draft pick. I would retain Petr Prucha, but could certainly see him being traded for a younger more skilled, but in need of development NHL/NHL-ready player, such as the supposedly available Phil Kessel. A team may be looking for more experience in the playoffs or has more depth at one position; the Vancouver Canucks have a surplus of defensemen and a need for another top six forward, for instance. Given Prucha’s stats this season it is likely that he has more value to the Rangers than he would in a trade.

Brendan Shanahan
Brendan Shanahan has shown his age this season and is almost certainly going to retire at season’s end. Thus, if there will be a roster purge, Shanahan should definitely be traded.

Possible Destination: Detroit- Shanny played in Hockeytown for so long that the match seems possible. Montreal tried to sign Shanahan before he signed with the Rangers and is a young team in need of leadership so this also looks plausible.

What I would be realistically asking for: 2nd Round 2008 Draft Pick and a prospect.

Martin Straka
I would keep Marty Straka because he is a model citizen; he goes all out every night. I often say ‘You can win with a team of 12 Strakas,’ so how could I suggest trading him? Straka is a free agent and will likely consider retirement, but I would like Straka to play on this team next season. I believe Straka would re-up for a reasonable contract and could be a leader for the younger players. Once again, however, you have to listen to offers since you could resign Straka after trading him.

Dan Girardi
No question you keep him.

Marek Malik
Sell! I’m not sure who would want him, but there has to be someone that would be interested in a player that has accumulated a very respectable +/- over the last two seasons.

Possible Destination: ???

What I would be realistically asking for: 4th Round 2008 Draft Pick and a player capable of taking up an NHL roster spot.

Paul Mara
See Malik.

Michal Rozsival
With the myriad of good defensemen that will be available as free agents this off-season, Michal Rozsival seems destined to not be a Ranger next season. With that said, I wouldn’t necessarily look to trade him; I would first attempt to sign him to an extension, about four years at approximately $2.75-3 million per season would be reasonable. If Rozsival asks for an inflated contract or declines to negotiate I would trade him, you could always resign him afterwards.

Marc Staal
Unless Washington is offering Alexander Ovechkin you’re keeping him.

Jason Strudwick
Strudwick is a valuable commodity for the Rangers as a 7th defenseman/forward, but has little trade value. Plus, Strudwick would likely be needed to fill a roster spot in the event of a fire sale.

Fedor Tyutin
The Rangers have refrained from trading Tyutin in the past and it makes no sense to trade him now.

Henrik Lundqvist
While Lundqvist is the franchise player at this point it wouldn’t be insane to consider trading him in my opinion, not that I’m endorsing it. Should contract negotiations go bad or another team presents a seductive package I would think about it. It’s not that I’ve given up on Lundqvist, but rather that it may be possible to improve the team overall by making a trade and then giving Al Montoya a chance to start. For instance, if Tampa Bay offers Vincent Lecavalier for Henrik Lundqvist straight up, you’re not going to think about it even for a minute?

Stephen Valiquette
I don’t think Valiquette has a trade market.

Wrapping it Up
The lines given a roster purge (excluding any incoming players):

Prucha-Dubinsky-Dawes
Straka-Gomez-Hossa/Moore
Byers/Korpikoski-Drury-Callahan/Parenteau
Jessiman/Fritz-Betts-Hollweg

Staal-Rozsival
Girardi-Tyutin
Baranka-Strudwick

Lundqvist
Valiquette

This would provide exposure for a lot of young players, think of it as early auditions and would allow for a lot of financial flexibility to make strategic free agent signings. Let’s face it, the New York Rangers are probably not going to qualify for the playoffs, let alone win the Stanley Cup. Hopefully, by writing this I have reversed the apparent jinx.

One last thing, I really believe this team could use a Jed Ortmeyer.

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