Joe Thornton and New York an unlikely match

June 18, 2014, by
Probably not coming to New York.

Probably not coming to New York.

About a week ago, rumors broke that Joe Thornton would waive his no-trade clause if fans in San Jose wanted him out. As soon as that news broke, people instantly began linking him to the Rangers because of past connections with Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis.

It’s the offseason, so we are going to get a lot of “rumors” like this. I put rumors in quotes because right now this is baseless speculation. It’s one reporter saying Thornton might want to go to New York because he has friends from the Olympics there. The problem is that, while Thornton does fill a need for the Rangers, there’s no viable way to get him to New York.

There are really two trade situations for Thornton: A deal that helps the Sharks retool their farm system or a deal that helps them for the immediate future.

The only NHL ready prospects are Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, and J.T. Miller. Since there are pending free agents that the Rangers may be unable to sign, there is a need for at least one, if not all three on the current roster. Also, none of those three are impact players. They are nice complementary players, but they aren’t game breakers. The only young game breaker the Rangers have is Chris Kreider. If he was a non-starter for Rick Nash, he’s a non-starter for Thornton.

In terms of prospects, the Rangers have some raw talent in Dylan McIlrath, Danny Kristo, Conor Allen, and others. But would San Jose, who had a solid regular season before their epic playoff collapse, really want to trade Thornton for prospects? This doesn’t even factor in Thornton’s $6.75 million deal for the next three seasons (offset by buying out Brad Richards, but still limits flexibility).

Plus, if they go the prospect route, the Rangers are without perhaps the biggest piece needed in that type of deal: A first round pick. They dealt two to Tampa Bay in the St. Louis/Callahan swap, leaving them without a pick in the first round until 2016.

There’s always the option of dealing a roster player, Marc Staal or Dan Girardi always seem to pop up in these conversations, but that may wind up being even worse than dealing from an already depleted farm system. The Rangers are spectacularly thin on NHL-ready defensemen, and are likely to lose Anton Stralman to free agency.

First, trading Staal would open up a huge hole on the second pairing. John Moore isn’t ready for second pairing minutes, and Staal is locked up for next year at a very reasonable cap hit ($3.975m). Trading him makes zero sense, as you just open up another hole.

The argument for trading Girardi makes more sense than trading Staal. The logic is that you trade Girardi and his $5.5 million cap hit for Thornton. You then use the $5.5 million to re-sign Stralman. Problem here is, again, you open up a hole. Stralman is a solid second pairing guy, but he’s no top-pairing defenseman. Kevin Klein isn’t really suited for top-four minutes, even though he faked it well in Nashville.

Basically, Thornton to New York makes little sense for the Rangers. Trading for him either creates another hole in the lineup or further depletes an already depleted farm system. In the short-term, the Rangers are better off looking for a cheaper option, both in dollars and roster cost.


  1. Melissa says:

    Just one problem on the Girardi scenario (and yes I realize you are saying it’s a bad one) – he has a no move clause so if for some unknown reason the Rangers actually wanted to do that, they would need him to okay it. Maybe I’m wrong but guessing that won’t happen.

    Otherwise great write up! Now to get people to listen…

    • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

      I personally like big Centerman. The Rangers need a righty but they can find depth for the right side on the Wing. He already has a report with Nash and whoever he has on his wing. He’s certainly one of the best passers in the game. He’s pretty good in the Faceoff circles. If The Sharks would make that trade for Staal. Why not consider it. If they have to throw in a kid or a pick then so be it. I don’t think Staal will be a Ranger after next season anyway. Thornton would make the Rangers top 6 pretty big. To replace Staal Brooks Orpik is a free agent. He’s a nice sized “stay at home defenseman” that throws a hit any chance he gets. They might even end up keeping Strahlman and if you pair Orpik & Strahlman. That’s a solid 2nd pair on any team in the NHL. I’d rather the Rangers find a young Centerman but Thornton for 3 years. I’m sure if he wants to win the NYR would be on his list. San Jose is rebuilding a little. Trying to get younger.

  2. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    The Rangers are really between a rock and a hard place when it comes to improving the team this offseason. Nash’s and Lundqvist’s cap hits are killers.

    Thornton was never a viable option, but they are really limited when it comes to finding a top center, which I would say the majority of us feel is the biggest need.

    • Tim B says:

      Yeah i wish the CBA rules were different. Look at the NFL. You can restructure contracts or you can have players take a pay cut. If those rules could apply to the NHL then im sure Nash would take a pay cut. Lundqvist deserves every penny of his contract. Richards could even take a pay cut tho doubt he would. Girardi, Klein take pay cuts and all of a sudden you have alot of cap to work with. No one said it was easy to build a Franchise or a Cup Winning Team and the salary cal makes it 10X harder.

      • paulronty says:

        Being able to restructure player contracts a la NFL would be a great idea in my view but the NHL is run by dinosaurs with not an ounce of creativity. They don’t seem to realize the game needs to change.

        • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

          No players union in their right mind agrees to that type of structure. The say in the NFL lies exclusively with the owners, the players (and its union) have little negotiating power.

          Guaranteed contracts is the norm in sports (MLB, NBA, NHL), not the outlier.

  3. Paul in sunrise says:

    I think Nash to SJS makes more sense than Jumbo Joe to NYR if they want to play together.

  4. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Dave, could you qualify the statement you made about Klein:

    “Kevin Klein isn’t really suited for top-four minutes, even though he faked it well in Nashville.”

    I thought universal sentiment was that he was a solid 2nd pairing RD. What, in his game, do you see which suggests otherwise?

    • Spozo says:

      I really like Klein too and think he could be a second pair defenseman as well. The problem I see is his matchup on the left side. A second pair of Klein and Staal would be too slow in my opinion.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        Is Klein that much slower than Stralman?

        • Spozo says:

          I thought so. Obviously no stats to prove that but this is my thinking.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Originally, I thought that might have been the case. But after watching the offensive side to his game, which came out in the Montreal series (if I remember correctly), he was tearing up the ice on a few offensive rushes.

          Top speed though, is somewhat irrelevant, as the transition game is more vital for defensemen.

          All that said, I don’t think a 2nd pairing of Staal – Klein would be a detriment. Probably would be one of the better 2nd pairings in the league.

          • Spozo says:

            In hindsight, Staal and Girardi were a pretty good pair a couple of years ago so I guess this could work.

    • Dave says:

      Possession stats, skating, positioning, etc. He’s not as steady as Stralman, who is the better option.

  5. SalMerc says:

    The only deals they can do this off-season is for someone who Slats feels can rejuvenate their career under the AV system. Is there another Pouliot out there? Maybe. I think we need to look at the offensive and defensive losses, see who (in our own system) is a viable candidate, then scour the rosters of others looking for that high-energy, hulking forward who can punish opposing team defense.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      I agree completely. Let’s hope the Rangers’ NHL scouting department can dig that player up.

  6. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    I’d also add that his $2.9M cap hit suggests he’s a top 4 defenseman. If you want to get the most value at least.

  7. supermaz says:

    Don’t want another 34 year old. Would not trade Lindberg straight up.

  8. Walt says:

    I’m glad Slats doesn’t have many options with Joe, because we need youth, and Joe is almost ready for the old players home!!!!!