The trade deadline came and went on Monday this season with a flurry of activity and some very big moves. Since I usually will write my articles for Friday, I haven’t really had a chance to weigh in at this point. I know that there has been a couple games in the interim, but since the Rangers don’t play again until Sunday, I’m just going to share my post deadline thoughts anyway…
- I’m going to start with the little moves and get those out of the way. I liked Lee Stempniak as a player and thought that he could provide some real value to this year’s team. However, he was simple a square peg in a round hole on this roster. There wasn’t room in the top nine for him and he wasn’t defensively oriented enough for a shut down role. All the best in Winnipeg, Lee.
- James Sheppard, on the other hand, seems to be exactly the type of player the club needs to bring true balance to the lineup. He relegates Tanner Glass to the press box (his biggest strength), can play wing and serve as a backup competent faceoff man if Moore gets tossed on defensive zone draws. Having not seen much of him in San Jose, so far he seems to play a direct, simple game without many mental lapses. I think he’s a good fit.
- Now, of course to the main event: Keith Yandle. This is going to take a couple bullets. First things first, this is clearly a seller’s market that Sather was working in. Combined with the fact that he was targeting a player who wasn’t “available” in the traditional sense, and you get a recipe for a high price. Let’s be clear, Sather did pay a high price to acquire a year and a half of Yandle at half his salary. Duclair, Moore and two high(ish) draft picks is quite the haul for Don Maloney.
- That said, I think Yandle at that cap hit adds a dimension to the roster that very few teams can counter. Yandle is a high-end skater, a power play specialist, and adds another presence on the roster with elite vision. He brings an entire tool shed to New York at $2.7m. To those bemoaning his defensive short comings, I say that there is an inherent risk/reward to this type of player. Anyone remember Kings and Hawks fans complaining about Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith at various times? Occasionally you get defensive gaffes with these guys, but the benefit far outweighs the detriment, especially when Yandle will be getting sheltered defensive minutes.
- From a strategic standpoint, I would much rather see Sather expend high-end assets for a guy with an chance to be a complete game changer in a Cup run than just pay a seller’s premium for a mediocre asset. *coughAntoineVermettecough*
- The loss of Anthony Duclair definitely stings. We saw glimpses of the special player he could be during his brief time on Broadway. However, the fully fleshed out version of that guy might not arrive until Hank is 37-38 years old, Nash is gone and the window is closed. It’s really a timing issue more than anything else. If Duclair was 22-23 coming off a 19 goal season or something, I would probably feel differently.
- Taking a step back, this move could prove to be legacy defining. Clearly, the Rangers feel that they need to bring The Cup back to Broadway within the next couple of seasons. You have one of the franchise’s longest tenured GM’s (he might be the longest, but I’m too lazy to look it up), and the greatest goaltender the organization has ever employed (no disrespect to Mike Richter, my personal favorite, but he just didn’t have the longevity). These guys need a Cup in New York to cement their status as all-time greats. Hank turned 33(!) this week. He probably has 2-3 elite years left in him before he becomes simply very good. The time is now.
- From an asset management standpoint, it’s also good business. Duclair was the #80 pick (3rd round) and was turned into a high-end puck mover in his prime. That’s good drafting/development.
- The result of this craziness is that the Rangers now possess the best blue line in the Eastern Conference (maybe the entire NHL). They have achieved a level of four line balance and depth that few teams can match. While this retooling far from guarantees anything in the playoffs, I feel this team is in a stronger position to truly compete for the Cup than any team since 1994.
- That being said, what to do with our second line? They have been a possession disaster all season, and Stepan is starting to slump, hard. The problem is, the two lines on either side of them are playing very well. Tough predicament for AV.
- I will be in Ottawa for the game on March 26th. Hank better be healthy by then.
- Cam Talbot is in a tough situation. He has played admirably in Hank’s stead, but you have a combination of fans really wanting to see this team firing on all cylinders, with the fact that Talbot has cracked 35 GP (he is at 25 now) in exactly one season in his career (55 in ’12-’13). He isn’t used to this kind of work load, especially at the NHL level. The fatigue factor is becoming more of an issue. Hopefully he can hang on until Hank returns.
- This current section of the schedule is something of a meat grinder. I wish Hank had been ready to go for this stretch, but hopefully they can continue piling up the points.
- Apologies for the long-winded thought dump, but a lot has happened since I last wrote. In closing, I can’t help but wonder if the Ducks were interested in James Wisniewski at $6.5 million, they had to be willing to talk Vatanen for Girardi again, right Dave?
- If you follow me on Twitter, you have already seen this, but I will leave you with Ondrej Pavelec’s new Bruce Springsteen tribute mask. Because it rocks.