Filling a hole without opening another hole
Much debate was made over the weekend regarding what the Rangers should give up in a trade for Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. The rumors were circling, and the general consensus is that the Rangers will need to include Derek Stepan in a package that will land either scoring winger. Both the Ducks and the Blue Jackets covet Stepan as a current #2 center, with the potential to be a #1 center.
Whether the Ducks and Blue Jackets are ranking Stepan appropriately is irrelevant. What matters is that the Rangers need a scoring winger, a big hole for them. There is hesitance to deal Stepan, as there should be, but the Rangers hesitance to deal him is about opening a hole at center to fill a hole at wing. That’s not how to build a team or how to “win” a trade.
Simply put, the Rangers are relatively thin in top-six centers. Right now it’s Stepan and Brad Richards. The argument can be made for Artem Anisimov, but he still has yet to be given powerplay time to show he can produce with the man advantage the way Stepan has.
Yes, Ryan and Nash fill a gaping hole in top-six wingers. However, with the Rangers so thin at center with scoring potential, dealing from the position shouldn’t be the course of action, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Anisimov’s ability to take hold of the opportunity.
In this league you need to give talent to get talent, that much we know. However, the Rangers have plenty of other chips they can move that does not require moving their only legitimate #2 center. Glen Sather knows this, and this is why he has been so reluctant to move Stepan in the first place (in my opinion of course, I don’t know Slats personally).
It’s not about attachment to the player or to the youth movement (Nash and Ryan are either in or entering their primes), it’s about recognition of the current roster makeup, and realizing that dealing Stepan creates a huge hole down the middle. That hole has the potential to be bigger than the hole on top-six wing. Every single Stanley Cup winning team since the lockout has been deep down the middle, and it’s a winning formula that should not be messed with.
The Rangers are deep down the middle with Richards, Stepan, Anisimov, and Boyle. They have two legitimate scoring threats, a two-way center, and a shutdown center. Why mess with that to fill a different hole? Especially when there are attractive options (see: Doan, Shane) that won’t require a player cost.
The goal of a trade is to make your team better, not take a step sideways.