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The Prospect Quagmire

As the trade deadline approaches, no time is more fun to play armchair GM.  Its easy to swap underperforming players and picks like trading cards and instantly transform the team into a playoff power house.  This enjoyable little exercise usually leads to us giving a deeper examination to the value of prospects and roster players we could see being moved for a deadline upgrade.

Prospects were once traded with relative anonymity and by the time they blossomed into stars, we had probably forgotten what organization originally drafted them (I know I had long forgotten that Adam Graves was originally a Red Wings draft pick).  Today, we can follow the career of a young player from the junior hockey/college ranks, even some in prep school.  This type of access allows us, as fans, to form bonds with these players and the potential impact that they may have some day.  Just like children, everyone loves their own kids more than anyone else’s and this is an especially important concept come prime trading times.

Let me preface this by saying that I am tremendously excited for the future of the Rangers organization.  They have drafted and traded well over the past 5+ years and the system is starting to bear the fruit of that work.  There is serious prospect depth in the minors/juniors and we have seen homegrown stars in Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan come into their own right before our eyes.  Players like Brandon Dubinsky and Michael Del Zotto have found success at the NHL level and Carl Hagelin has made an immediate impact since his call up.  Also, we can’t leave out everyone’s favorite 7th round draft pick, Henrik Lundqvist.

We all like to envision every member of the farm system representing another piece in an all homegrown Rangers Stanley Cup champion.  After all, young, cost-controlled players with upside are the best way to manage the cap and avoid the potential albatross deals that have been something of a blight on Glen Sather’s record.  From a practical standpoint however, one of the biggest benefits of a strong farm system is the ability to trade from an area of strength to shore up weaknesses on the big club.  As Dave has astutely pointed out in his Scouting the Deadline series, it is important to be able to accurately value these assets and make a business decision about whether to proceed with a given move.

What we all need to remember is that prospects are essentially lottery tickets.  We have all lived through our fair share of first round busts, and unfortunately the vast amount of players simply don’t live up to their ceiling.  Take Chris Krieder, for example.  Every scouting report I have ever read about him says his physical gifts are truly elite.  On the other hand, there are serious concerns about his hockey IQ and awareness/anticipation on the ice.  Now, this obviously isn’t to say he cannot succeed or be every bit as effective as his skills will allow him to be.  It’s just to say that he is not a known quantity at this point.  Depending on the other pieces, I wouldn’t be opposed to including him in a trade for someone like Bobby Ryan for instance.

As the deadline draws near, the Rangers’ are in somewhat of a precarious position.  Their window of contention is opening a little earlier than most expected, and it takes careful management not to overplay your hand and set your organizational development back.  Stripping down the farm system for an elite player could potentially be that final piece that brings Lord Stanley back to Broadway, or it could mean losing several key pieces that could help achieve the same result in 2-3 years.  This is the $64,000 question.

The ability to follow our teams prospects from the amateur ranks to The Show has added a new layer to hockey fandom.  It helps give up a more three-dimensional look at the management of the organization and it’s a lot of fun to see where the next crop of great Rangers is going to come from.  When it comes to evaluating moves or non-moves made this deadline season, it’s important not to hug prospects too tightly and look rather at the whether the move is good asset management and will help the team deliver its goal of raising the Stanley Cup in the very near future.

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  • The biggest question in hockey today is managing the cap. Having a balance of cost controlled players that deliver to augment a group of high priced all star calibre players and quality cost controlled journeymen. So the the difficult issue is when your cost controlled player is ready for the first big contract for your club to have an accurate prognosis on of this player is as all star or a journeyman or where in between. So look at Callahan. He is a leader, scorer, defender, grinder, perfroms at a high level every shift ,everything that is an All star Ranger so he deserves every penny. On the other hand, Dubinsky seems to be way overpaid in that he does not perform to a Ranger standard on a consistent basis and is not a high skilled scorer to make up for lapses.
    So to get to the point of this post, the kids have to be grown in the franchise, but if they are poorly evaluated and hence ivetoaid they need to be moved for a skill that the team needs now or prospects that are scouted for the future.
    All thus does not need to happen in a single deal, but potentially as a short term plan.
    So on the case of Ryan, the Rangers need to create cap room and a spot in the top 6. Do moving Krider Wolfskill and zucarello for Ryan ANd trading to another tem Duninsky for a top level prospect and an excellent bottom 6 forward is the type of move that needs to be made.

    • Bobby, I agree with almost your entire comment except for the Ryan proposal…we need to move past the notion that teams are willing to take our spare parts for high end players. Why would Anaheim want Wolski and Zuccarello in whatever package they end up taking for Ryan?

  • The problem with how much access we have to prospects is that everyone thinks they are known quantities, when they are the exact opposite.

    That’s why I’m not all that upset over Kreider for Ryan, if it happens. I’ve said it before that Kreider is unknown, and at his peak he becomes Bobby Ryan. Ryan is still young, so it’s not like they would be trading for a veteran.

    It’s all about separating emotions from the prospects, something that is tough to do with how much access we have to them now.

  • Nice post Justin. You included my favourite phrase: ‘asset management’. Couldn’t agree more even if I’m very excited about Kreider making it with NY

    • Thanks Chris…I think its easy to forget that running an NHL club is still a business and fundamental business principles apply. Players and picks are no different than any other corporate asset and need to be managed as such.

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself. Though still not sure about moving Krieder+ for Ryan. Good post. Sather should be busy the next month.

  • I am against a trade of Krieder for Ryan because it will take more than Krieder to get him. I prefer we watch Krieder become our own prolific scorer and to watch him blossom For you young uns this will be a trade similar to the Middleton trade to Boston. There is a plan and the team is ahead of the plan. Let it stay at that. Ryan is not worth the shake up. We are still not there yet so don’t let this team success make you lose sight of the plan

      • I wouldn’t. That’s a hefty package for someone having a down season imo. Especially if Kreider can become Ryan. I’d rather have a kid scoring 25 goals on an entry level deal than someone potentially scoring 30 goals for over $5 million. Plus we lose a 1st and a top 4 d-man. Where’s the value in that?

        • Personally I’d prefer Dubi/Erixon or McIlrath/1st, but I’ll take the Sauer deal too.

          Everyone on Anaheim is having a down year..and Ryan is still on pace for 35 or so goals. We aren’t 100% Kreider can do that yet. Ryan is still just 24 years old.

          • You know I think I would seriously consider the Sauer deal. His last injury notwithstanding, he has a scary minor league injury track record and if Anaheim wanted to take that risk…I’d think long and hard about it.

          • Have to disagree. There’s no chance I move Erixon right now, not to mention I still don’t believe the Rangers traded for Erixon to flip him at the deadline.

        • Suit
          Your remarks are spot on! All these GM’s on this blog like to make trades, throw names out there, and not think it through for the long term. Ryan isn’t worth what is being offered, and the obvious question, “Why Is He On The Trading Block In The First Place” ?????

          • Its a viable question Walt. I’m not ready to part with Kreider who could provide an excellent value on an entry level deal next season or in 2013.

            Bobby Ryan is certainly a good player and a proven commodity in Anaheim, but who knows how he’d fair under Torts, under the NYC spotlight, etc. Five mill for 50 points, no PP goals, is a tall order for our top prospect IMO.

          • yeah, it makes no sense to me either. For years we have been asking for this model for our Rangers and now that it is here people want to blow it up for what is still a gamble to go for it all this year. What blows me away even more is that the solution to our problems are right here within our own organization and yet people want to covet other teams players.

          • Walt, assuming the general process of talent acquisition, (not withstanding the diamonds in the rough) to draft someone with the potential of scoring 35-40 goals at the NHL level requires a first round pick.

            That high draft pick only allows for that type of potential. The ability to do it consistently at the NHL level at such a young age is a valuable commodity. While it is possible the Ducks simply see something in Ryan they don’t like and have decided to make him someone else’s problem, I don’t think the motivation is quite so sinister.

            Ryan is one of the Ducks’ most valuable commodities. If they feel their current model for success is broken, it makes sense to turn one valuable asset into several, especially with the strength of some of their prospects/young players and their presumably high draft pick this summer. And while some have pointed to his high cap hit (5.5m), depending on his production, it could provide cost certainty as opposed to being cost-prohibitive. If he out scores Gabby, for instance, he is a bargain.

            Now, I’m not advocating for requiring Ryan. It just seems like some around here feel like it would be a death blow to the organization to deal reciprocal value for him.

            As the old adage goes for GM’s “if you think like a fan, you’ll soon be sitting with them”

          • Reciprocity, a trade for Ryan or Weber will not be that for the Rangers. We will have to over pay. Case closed on this topic.

          • When one skates with a Getzlaf, and a Perry, you can be made to look good! He would not have that type of quality a line here, and his produuction would refect that. Too expensive a proposition for my blood.

    • That’s mostly due to the absurd play of the goalies. However, we’ve never seen this team at full strength on the blue line. The deal they make on defense might just be getting Sauer back in the lineup.

      • You can make a case for every other goalie and their absurd play, like Howard, Quick, Elliot…want me to go on? It still comes down to a team, not a goalie or a scorer

  • I have been saying for two years we should trade for shea weber ,and I still think we should,a big shot from the point,a physical defencemen, who nd what would we have to give to get him???

    • Don’t even go there. If Weber was even in play the auction would get out of hand. Who wouldn’t want to make an offer?!
      To get a player of that elite quality in a trade guts a franchise’s asset depth in a big way.

      • I agree, Weber is an NHL 12 trade target. There are only a handful of guys like him the league and every team would jump at the chance to acquire a big time d-man like that

  • Sorry for the comment binge, but I’ve been in class all day and wasn’t able to join the discussion. I am really excited to see what Krieder brings when his time comes, but (assuming the scouting reports are accurate) a lack of hockey IQ really concerns me. He could become an incredibly frustrating player to watch develop if his brain never catches up to his feet/hands…

    • There is a coach in place that has a system. I wouldn’t be too concerned by that. If Krieder had such terrible hockey sense I doubt that Gordie Clark would have drafted him. He has size, speed and skill that he will bring to a concept and not as an individual. He might just be the other winger for Richards and Callahan. That should elevate Hagelin to the 1st line with Stepan and Gaborik. Dubinsky then will play with Boyle and Mitchell in all likelihood which then creates a fourth line of Anisimov with Rupp and Prust.

      • Good point Leather, I have a lot of faith in Gordie and the coaching staff to turn Krieder into a productive member of the team. It just smacks of when a baseball team will draft a 5-tool player that has all the athleticism and skills (quick hands, good speed, strength, size) and can’t figure out how to hit a breaking ball. I know it’s not the best comparison, but I’m a big advocate in drafting guys with an advanced feel for the game.

        • Did you see the latest hockeyprospectus update on Kreider? (I included the link as my ‘website’, click my name)

          “Says one NHL Head Scout, “any hockey sense concerns some may have had are gone” which has been my main issue with Kreider in the past and based on what I’ve seen I agree with that assessment. “

          • Good find Smurf. I hope he comes into his own from an on ice awareness standpoint. As Suit said, it would be a big time value on an entry level deal if he could do some damage next year.

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