Since the fire-sale of 2004, GM Glen Sather has done a fantastic job of rebuilding the farm system. The Rangers have NHL talent on the roster in Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, and Artem Anisimov. They have high-end prospects in Evgeny Grachev, Derek Stepan, Bobby Sanguinetti, Ryan McDonagh, and Chris Kreider. They have a myriad of other prospects that may or may not pan out. The Rangers are going to be set with good, young, cost-controlled talent for many years to come.
What has clouded Ranger fans in the past years is that they have exceeded expectations and qualified for the playoffs each year during the rebuild. The team, as currently built, is unfortunately not ready to be a Stanley Cup contender. There is minimal secondary scoring, there is no physical preference on the blue line, and there are gaping holes in the depth of the team. Ilya Kovalchuk does not fill all these holes. A Stanley Cup team is a team that fills all it’s holes at the deadline, not just one.
When looking at a deal for Kovalchuk, you have to compare the package to be comparable to the package sent by Philly for Chris Pronger. The package was a young roster forward (Joffrey Lupul), a young roster / borderline roster defenseman (Luca Sbisa), two first round picks and a conditional third round pick. Since Kovalchuk would be a rental, the package required would be smaller, but not by much.
Assume it would cost the following players to be sent to Atlanta to land Kovalchuk:
- Brandon Dubinsky
- Bobby Sanguinetti
- 2010 1st round pick
- 2011 3rd round pick
- Conditional 2011 1st round pick if Kovalchuk re-signs with the Rangers
This, on the surface, seems like a great deal, and I’ll admit, I would be tempted if this were the package. I would have to think that one more prospect would be thrown in, probably one of the Ethan Werek variety, but I was basing this strictly off the Pronger deal. Before you all thrown yourselves to this deal, you have to analyze this in more detail for a long term scenario. In order to fit Kovalchuk under the cap for the remainder of the season, the Rangers would have to waive Wade Redden, and replace him with Ilkka Heikkinen. Again, this is going to be received favorably by Ranger fans.
Looking ahead to the offseason, the money saved by waiving Redden is offset by the money it will cost to re-sign Kovalchuk, who will command roughly $8 million a season for a minimum of five years. Then you have to consider the money necessary to re-sign Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, and build the roster based off the remaining salary cap limitations. This means letting Vinny Prospal and Chris Higgins walk, re-signing Enver Lisin, and assuming that Evgeny Grachev will make the roster. The numbers work, assuming the salary cap remains the same. But, do we really want to deal with another long term, bloated contract? I can assure you that if this deal goes through, then there will be no buyout of Michal Rozsival. The Rangers will need his veteran presence on the blue line that will again have a rookie, and an average age of roughly 24.
Given the proper scenario, the numbers work. The issue lies in the big gamble that Kovalchuk will re-sign with the Rangers. If he doesn’t re-sign, then the Rangers gave up a ton to just make the playoffs. Then, the weak defense and lack of a physical presence is exploited, and the Rangers bow out in the second round. It’s not pessimistic, it’s realistic. Remember, I’m the optimist ’round these bloggin’ parts.
If he re-signs, then he provides the Rangers with one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in the NHL, but the defense suffers, and the Rangers are stuck with another bloated contract. Don’t forget that after the 2010 season, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan, Matt Gilroy, and Chad Johnson are RFAs.
Again, the numbers work. Personally, I would disagree with this trade.