When should the Rangers fix the defense?
Unless you’re blind, you’ve noticed that the Rangers have a huge issue on defense. It doesn’t matter what you think about Henrik Lundqvist’s future, it’s painfully obvious that for the Rangers to be a better team and have a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup, they need to make drastic changes on the blue line. This is beyond deployment, it’s personnel based, and the need is dire.
There are some quick fixes that can be done to make the Rangers into more of a contending team. This would mean giving up a young top-nine forward for a young top-four defenseman and then making a separate deal for a solid bottom pairing defenseman. That, at the very least, is what is needed to turn the current version of the Rangers into a true Cup contender this season. They need not one, but two defensemen.
But is that the right move? Is that even enough to put them over the hump? There’s a good argument for the Rangers to wait it out this season, and make those drastic changes this offseason.
Let’s be real, the Rangers aren’t going to find a suitor for Dan Girardi. Same goes for Marc Staal. Kevin Klein has minimal value as a player, but has some decent value as expansion draft fodder. Ditto Nick Holden. Aside from Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei’s potential, the Rangers don’t have much on the blue line. In any given scenario, both Girardi and Staal are manning the blue line and getting significant minutes for the rest of the season.
Which brings us to the potentially unpopular discussion. Perhaps the Rangers should stand pat at the deadline this season, and make their moves in June and July to reshape the blue line.
There’s some merit to this argument, as the only way to get rid of Girardi is via buyout, which is a real possibility. Kevin Shattenkirk is a popular target, but does it make sense to trade assets to St. Louis for a player that is rumored to want to come to New York anyway? Are there any real suitors for a blockbuster deal midseason to land a defenseman in a Johansen/Jones-esque swap?
These are all significant questions and situations that either can’t (Girardi) or might not (everything else) be addressed by the trade deadline. If you’re of the belief that the Rangers can’t/won’t contend until Girardi and/or Staal and/or Klein are gone, then it might not make sense to make moves at the deadline. If you think only one or two need to go, then perhaps the Rangers should go for it.
Depending on the moves Jeff Gorton makes, there is no wrong answer to this question. But there are certainly pros and cons of either approach. Personally, I think there’s a middle ground here, where the club can assess and make the right moves at the deadline (note: no rentals or band-aids) while keeping the bigger picture in mind. You never know who is available in February who may not be available in June, and vice versa.