The Tampa Bay Lightning are, for all intents and purposes, out of the playoff race. They are currently eight points out, and need to leapfrog four teams just to get to the last playoff seed. Come deadline day, Tampa Bay will likely be sellers. Their best asset at the deadline also happens to be a player that the Rangers might be interested in: Pavel Kubina.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Kubina won a Cup with John Tortorella in 2004. He has a heavy shot from the point, and would be an upgrade over two defensemen currently on the roster (Steve Eminger, Stu Bickel). Kubina is also in his final year of his contract at a manageable $3.85 million cap hit, so he fits in with the Rangers from a cap standpoint and from a coaching standpoint.
Kubina doesn’t put up the offensive numbers he used to, but that is primarily due to the fact that he is not getting the same amount of powerplay time he did in his prime. Kubina gets about 50% of the powerplay time he used to get, which directly correlates to his 50% decrease in production. Where his production has been hurt the most is in his shots on goal. At one point Kubina was taking over 150 shots per season. Now he’s on pace to barely clear 100 shots.
What most people don’t understand about Kubina is that although his plus/minus isn’t sexy (worthless stat anyway), he does a decent job in his own end. He doesn’t face top quality competition all the time, nor does he have a positive Corsi (stat that shows puck possession: a positive Corsi means more shots are directed at the opponents net than at a player’s net during his shift), but he does manage to maintain a GVT of 2.6, which is better than both Eminger (0.8) and Bickel (1.5) combined.
What does that last paragraph mean? Basically it means that Kubina on his own is worth about two more goals over the course of the season than both Eminger and Bickel combined. Converting this to points in the standings, it’s about a half a point difference. Kubina doesn’t play against the opposition’s best players, but he still has a negative puck possession metric.
Throw all this together, and you still have an upgrade on defense. Kubina wouldn’t be expected to fill top line duties. He would be a depth defenseman, and play on the third pairing and potentially the powerplay. Considering Kubina throws his weight around well and blocks shots at a decent pace, he would slide in nicely next to Marc Staal on that last defense pairing.
Kubina’s price would likely be what Bryan McCabe fetched last year: a mid tier prospect and a mid-round draft pick. Looking at the Lightning roster and prospects, it’s clear they need a goalie badly. The Rangers don’t really have much to offer them in that regard, unless they want Chad Johnson in a deal. They also need help on defense, which happens to be something the Rangers have in excess.
It’s safe to assume Glen Sather won’t deal Dylan McIlrath or Tim Erixon for a rental like Kubina, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Perhaps someone like Pavel Valentenko is enough to get the job done with a mid-round pick. Tim Kennedy was enough to fetch McCabe last year after all.