For the past month or so, there have been many reports that the Rangers have been scouting the Colorado Avalanche. We don’t play them for another month, so I think it’s safe to assume the Rangers aren’t pre-scouting and may be exploring trade opportunities.
If the latter is true and the Rangers are taking a hard look at Colorado’s roster, then it certainly begs the question — is there a fit? Looking over Colorado’s roster and contract situations, they’re flush at center, short on wings, and somewhere in the middle on defense.
We’re pretty set at wing. Neither Step, Richie, nor Brass are true #1 centers. A right-handed defender remains our biggest need overall. So there are a few trade possibilities worth exploring.
Paul Stastny ($6.6M – UFA)
If you look at the teams that have won or challenged for the Cup in the modern era there’s always one element that can consistently be found on all of those rosters, and that’s top-end centers. Systems have changed. Some have won with strong defenses and goaltending, others have relied on offense, but centers are the constant.
The Rangers haven’t had an elite pivot since Mark Messier was slaying dragons. Stastny, while certainly not Mess, is probably one of the more under-appreciated centers in the league.
Stastny takes the vast majority of his draws in the defensive zone (low 40’s zone start %), he gets all of Colorado’s toughest matchups, and yet he’s still their top puck possession player (51.9 corsi for %). Even more exciting, he wins 54% of his draws and is on pace for 65 points. In other words, he does more with less, which is the opposite of Stepan and Richards.
The concern with Stastny is he’s a UFA after this year and he’s still in his prime at 28 years old. You’d have to figure most GM’s in this league are aware of the stats I rattled off in my last paragraph and would be willing to shell out for his services. In other words, more than Del Zotto has to go in the other direction.
Ryan O’Reilly ($5M – RFA)
O’Reilly is another interesting target. He can play both left wing and center. He’s used in all situations. He’s a tenacious forechecker and works hard defensively, which is something our current crop of centers sorely lack. For his third season in a row, he’s pretty much a lock to put up 55 points. Advanced stats don’t really tell much of a story. He’s middle of the road in puck possession and deployment.
The real issue with ROR isn’t in his play, but with potential costs. Last season he held out during a contract dispute and missed over a month of a lockout-shortened season. The Avalanche ultimately had to match an offer sheet from Calgary in order to get him under contract. That whole ordeal was a real fiasco for all parties involved and it wasn’t a good look for the 22 year old.
Tyson Barrie ($715K – RFA)
If Barrie were a left-handed shot, he probably wouldn’t be on my radar. However, as I’ve mentioned countless times on this site, the Rangers need a right-handed shot on the blueline and Barrie could be an affordable option in that regard.
Barrie is currently a 2nd year pro after being drafted by the Avalanche in the third round in 2009. Scouts describe him as a puck mover, with mobility and a good shot from the point, but worry about his d-zone coverage due to his small stature. He’s listed at 5’10 190 lbs. which means he probably walks around an inch shorter and 10-15 pounds lighter. Though to be fair, he’s only 22 so he could fill out a little more.
He’s missed a few games from a shoulder injury, but he’s on pace for 7 goals, 26 points, and is averaging about 17-18 minutes a game. He’s typically used on the bottom pair during 5-on-5 play, but he does get time on the 2nd PP unit.
When it comes to puck possession, Extraskater.com has him pretty even (49.1 corsi for %) against weaker competition. He is also mostly deployed for offensive zone face-offs (low 60’s zone start %). However, he’s only 70 games into his NHL career, so you can’t really make a big deal out of those numbers either way.
Whether or not Sather makes a deal with Joe Sakic is anyone’s guess, but it seems like these two teams are a pretty good fit from a need/have standpoint. I guess the question is — what do you give up for any combination of these players?