When trade rumors begin to surface, many begin to panic. It’s not unexpected to see this panicking, as the Rangers were so close last season to playing for the Stanley Cup, it makes you wonder what management will do to make that next step. Per Larry Brooks, the organization has dubbed seven key players as “untouchable” in their search for scoring:
Mentioning Cally, Girardi, and Lundqvist is just a formality, as these are guys in or entering their prime who are core pieces for the Rangers. As for the first four mentioned by Brooks, those names are expected to be deemed as “untouchable.” If the Rangers were open to moving any of them, the return would have to be monstrous.
McDonagh was a given for the status of untouchable because of the impact he’s made on the roster. McDonagh emerged as a top pairing defender when Marc Staal went down with his concussion, and stayed there even when Staal returned. The pairing of McDonagh and Girardi is one of the best shutdown pairs in the game today. Throw in the fact that McDonagh has yet to tap into his offensive potential, and we could be looking at a Norris winner in the future.
As for the other three, if the Rangers won’t deal Kreider for Nash or Ryan, they won’t deal him for anyone short of Sidney Crosby. Staal and Stepan add much needed depth to strong top lines/pairings, and dealing them would be a blow to the Rangers ability to roll more than three lines or two pairings.
In addition to these seven, one would have to assume Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik are untouchable because of contract status. But these names mentioned here aren’t the point of the story. It’s the names not mentioned.
Noticeably absent from this list are Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto, Artem Anisimov, and Carl Hagelin. Many fans are high on pretty much all of these players, but in the business of hockey you have to give something to get something.
Dubinsky has been the no brainer for a while based on that contract and lack of offensive production this season. Unless the Rangers take salary back, it’s unlikely he’s dealt in my opinion, as his value is at an all time low.
As for Anisimov and Hagelin, both are likely to be borderline top-six, but most likely bottom-six (note: third line) forwards. Yes, Hagelin has played on the top line with Richards and Gaborik, but that’s not a permanent spot for him. It worked in the short term, but that line showed no chemistry in the playoffs. It’s why Hagelin was never on the powerplay as well. There’s always the potential for more, but that’s always the case with young players.
MDZ is an interesting case. The Rangers don’t have much in terms of offensive defensemen, and MDZ is essentially their only blue liner that they can groom into a powerplay QB (aside from McDonagh’s potential). He’s still very young and took a big step forward after a disastrous sophomore season. Willing to trade him doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve given up on him, but it may signal that he might not develop into that powerplay QB they were hoping for.
This doesn’t mean that these four players are on the block, it just means that these are the NHL assets the Rangers would like to use to improve their roster. The combination of these players isn’t likely to be enough to get someone like Bobby Ryan or Rick Nash, but it should be enough to land some help.