Archive for Irresponsible Rumormongering

Courtesy of Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

Bruce Bennett (Getty Images)

With the All-Star break in full swing, GMs from around the NHL will go on overdrive trying to find that missing piece. The goal is always the same this time of year. Improve now, improve for the future or for some teams, do a combination of both.

The Rangers needs are well documented at this point. To quickly recap, they could use another defensemen, a top 9 winger and perhaps some of their draft picks back. After all, they haven’t had a 1st rounder since 2012 and won’t have one till 2017, which is insane.

Anyway, with those goals in mind, below are some targets I would consider as the trade deadline approaches. As always, I’m happy to debate these ideas (civilly) in the comments.

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WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 12: Andrew Ladd #16 of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during first period action against the Vancouver Canucks at the MTS Centre on March 12, 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Jets 3-2 in the shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Kozub)

Anyone that watched the mini-debacle against the Ottawa Senators will know that there are a few serious flaws to be found on the Rangers roster. The win against the Sabres shouldn’t change the way people view the Rangers. This team doesn’t engage enough along the boards and they certainly don’t go to the net enough or make life difficult enough for the opposing goaltenders. The blank in Ottawa wasn’t an isolated case. This team needs to change its DNA up front (or at least mix it up) and needs a different type of top six forward.

In theory, the Rangers should have the players to get to the net with regularity. When Rick Nash wants to he can absolutely dominate most defenders and when he drives to the net he’s hard to stop. Same goes for Chris Kreider but too often both players play on the perimeter. At least, when you consider the physical tools at their disposal. Even if you consider their attempts to generate traffic appropriate, the rest of the roster doesn’t get to the high traffic areas nearly enough.

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Photo: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Photo: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

The Rangers are in need of another scoring forward, preferably a shoot-first guy, in order to really round out the lineup. The thought process is that a top-six forward is acquired, moving J.T. Miller down to the third line with Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg. That pushes Jesper Fast to the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg/Tanner Glass, and the Rangers are balanced.

The recent playing time of Jayson Megna, a right-handed shot, really emphasized the need for a player of that type. Megna is not a top-six guy, and to be fair is a borderline NHLer at this point in his career. When Megna started getting legitimate playing time, the hole at forward was exposed further.

Two weeks ago, we looked at some potentially available top-six forwards that the Rangers might try to target at the trade deadline. Since then, only James van Riemsdyk has really come off the market, with the Leafs saying they have no interest in trading him. Let’s look at a few more potential targets.

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Damien Cox and Elliotte Friedman reported over the weekend that defenseman Keith Yandle has put off talks of an extension with the Rangers. This likely means that the Rangers will need to part with him in a trade in order to recoup some value from what has now become a disastrous trade. Yandle was acquired at the trade deadline last year at the biggest cost of all of Glen Sather’s “win now” trades, with Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a first round pick, and a second round pick heading to Arizona.

The biggest piece here was Duclair, who is lighting it up in Arizona right now playing with Max Domi. Duclair has a line of 12-11-23 in his rookie season and won’t be slowing down any time soon. The first round pick hurts as well, as it will mark the fourth straight year the Rangers don’t have a first round pick. It’s tough to blame Yandle for not wanting to talk an extension either, as his playing time doesn’t match his production. He’s been relegated to third pairing and second powerplay minutes, while far inferior players are getting more ice time across the board.

Suffice it to say, if Yandle isn’t extended, this is a disastrous trade for the Rangers.

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Bob McKenzie dropped a bit of a bomb just now, saying the Rangers are working on trading forward Emerson Etem. It could go down today, might not go at all, but they are working on it now. Etem was acquired at the draft in exchange for Carl Hagelin in a wildly unpopular but necessary move.

Etem never clicked with the Rangers, spending most of his time as a healthy scratch for Alain Vigneault. He’s played just 19 games with the Rangers, registering three assists.

Pat Leonard says Etem has been assigned to the AHL for conditioning. This doesn’t get in the way of a trade, and conditioning assignments do not require waivers. Also worth noting that conditioning assignments can be ended at any time.

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cam atkinson

Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Aaron Portzline, a beat writer for the Columbus Blue Jackets, tweeted this morning that the Rangers have been calling Columbus about winger Cam Atkinson. Considering the Rangers desperately need a top-six winger, the interest in Atkinson makes sense. He’s a consistent 20-goal scorer, on pace for 25 goals this year. He’s also a shoot-first guy, a type of player the Rangers are desperate for.

Atkinson is small at 5’7 and 180 lbs, but that doesn’t stop him from getting himself into shooting positions. He has taken over 200 shots per season over the last three seasons (91 shots in 35 games three seasons ago), and is on pace to crack 200 again this year. At $3.5 million over the next two seasons, he’s signed to a very reasonable deal as well.

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Droolin’ over Drouin

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Expect GM Steve Yzerman to be very patient with the Drouin negotiations

Expect GM Steve Yzerman to be very patient with the Drouin negotiations

Jonathan Drouin’s public trade request kicked the rumor mill into high gear right out of the holiday break, and the recent success of last night’s opponent is a good indication why.

The parallels between Tyler Seguin and Drouin are evident, and like Seguin, Drouin has the potential to become an elite offensive producer that helps catapult his future team into the upper echelon of the NHL.

Drouin obviously has much to prove, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman no doubt has Boston’s Seguin disaster dancing through his mind as he sorts through his options.

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jonathan drouin

Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/MCT

Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers are interested in Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin. Drouin requested a trade after what he felt was misuse by the organization. Drouin was initially returned to Juniors after being selected third overall in 2013, then was put in a role playing position on the team when he joined the Lightning.

Drouin is a hugely talented playmaker, with a line of 6-34-40 in 89 NHL games. He’s bounced all over the lineup, spending some time with Steven Stamkos on the top line as well. Drouin isn’t the big scorer the Rangers desperately need, but he’s a 20-year-old top-six winger that would be an instant upgrade on most forwards in the Rangers organization.

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Vrbata (Getty Images)

Vrbata (Getty Images)

The new year has come and gone, and with that comes trade season. It’s rare to see trades in the first few months of the season, as teams are still usually figuring out what they have internally. That feeling out process has concluded, and we should start seeing some action as the trade deadline approaches. The Rangers have a few holes, one of them being a top-six forward, preferably a right wing. Top-six forwards are tough to come by, especially in today’s “everyone is in it until March” NHL. The epic disaster that is the Pacific Division makes finding a forward that fits even more difficult.

For the Rangers, it’s not just a need for a top-six forward, it’s a need for a top-six forward that is a pure shooter. Not one of the current top-six –including the rotation at 2RW– has a shoot-first mentality. Someone who fits this mold keeps Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, and J.T. Miller on the third line, and moves Jesper Fast back to where he belongs on the fourth line. It rounds out the lineup nicely.

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How do you trade Marc Staal or Dan Girardi? Sweeten the pot.

How do you trade Marc Staal or Dan Girardi? Sweeten the pot.

The biggest contributors to the Rangers’ problems are veteran defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who have struggled mightily and each have cap hits of at least $5.5 million for the next four years (five for Staal).

Dealing either player will be tricky given their robust contracts and current level of play, but that’s the ideal solution for a club that desperately needs to redistribute icetime and everyday lineup spots along the blueline, and hopes to re-sign Keith Yandle this summer.

Trade rumors are likely to begin flying quickly after the holiday roster freeze is lifted and Staal and Girardi will be at the forefront. But while dumping either for prospects and/or draft picks might be possible, it’s an unlikely course of action for a team that fancies itself a contender. Clearing money from the payroll will become a focal point possibly by the trade deadline and certainly during the offseason, but for now GM Jeff Gorton is still hoping to improve his team for the present.

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