When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash, they did so by dealing two roster players that played key roles on the bottom six forwards. Losing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov may not look like much, especially when they are dealt for someone like Rick Nash. However, it does lead to the discussion of how to replace these players, especially Dubinsky, who was one of the Rangers top defensive and puck possession forwards.
It seems logical to begin with Anisimov, who I believe to be the easier of the two to replace. Anisimov bounced around on the Rangers lineup from top line to fourth line so often, I’m surprised he wasn’t dizzy from all the pinballing around the lineup. Throughout his young career, he has shown flashes of offensive talent while putting up 30-40 points per season, almost entirely at even strength.
His defensive peripherals (.005 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 52.7 OZone%) aren’t spectacular, but they are still solid and show that Anisimov was still very reliable in his own end. He’s the type of two-way forward that could develop into a 50-60 point player if given the right opportunity and powerplay time. That said, he wasn’t going to get that opportunity with the Rangers. Jeff Halpern has comparable numbers (-.029 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 39.2 OZone%), but can add more in terms of veteran leadership and face off wins.
As for Dubinsky, his defensive metrics are far more difficult to replace. Dubinsky was a warrior for the Rangesr, must like Brandon Prust was, and still managed to contribute offensively (last season being an aberration due to an outlier in his career shooting percentage). While Dubinsky’s offensive numbers will surely be eclipsed by the incoming Nash (who will likely be able to cover for Dubinsky and Anisimov by himself), it’s his defensive numbers that are almost irreplaceable.
Dubinsky had stellar defensive metrics (.006 QoC, 41.8 OZone%), and was one of the top forwards on the team in puck possession (8.8 RCorsi). Those numbers alone are why the Rangers might miss Dubinsky on the ice a lot more than most may realize. Outside of Prust and Brian Boyle, Dubinsky was the most heavily relied upon forward to shutdown the opposition, and he did so to great success.
However, the Rangers may have their own internal solution, as Carl Hagelin is a noted puck possession monster with the same offensive potential as Dubinsky. Hagelin was babied a bit during his rookie year, and doesn’t have the same QoC or OZone% numbers that Dubinsky had (albeit a better RCorsi), but he was one of Michigan’s top two-way forwards, and it is likely that he would be able to slide into the same role Dubinsky had.
The reason why Dubinsky and Anisimov were sent packing were because the Rangers felt they did an adequate job in replacing them in the lineup, either internally or with key free agents. It is also the reason why the Rangers are being viewed as “winning” this Nash trade, as they dealt from surplus to address a need. Losing Anisimov and Dubinsky, two of the first homegrown players to be brought up in this new era of Rangers hockey, is tough, but to get you need to give. The combination of Nash, Hagelin, and Halpern help assuage the loss of Anisimov and especially Dubinsky.
At the end of the day, the Rangers are a better team with Nash, and that’s all that matters.