With every passing day the trade deadline draws closer, with teams already likely in the preliminary stages of making whatever deals we’ll eventually see transpire. The Rangers are likely to be active at the deadline one way or another, and while I’m not going to make specific recommendations or prescribe particular remedies to what’s ailing the team (given that I’ve already done that, and given that there’s certainly more than one way to improve this team) I do want to unpack the crucial thought process that a team must undertake in the run up to the deadline.
In short, it all has to do with whether or not this team sees itself as a true contender, and whether or not that’s actually true. We’ve seen in previous years the Rangers’s tendency to go all in, adding pieces at the deadline in order to give the team a shot at the Cup. While I think it’s certainly admirable to try and contend every year possible and give Henrik Lundqvist a shot at his Cup, we’ve also seen in previous years that this hasn’t exactly worked out.
Let’s say this team sees itself as a contender, albeit one that could use certain improvements. GM Jeff Gorton might then go out and try and make the requisite improvements, specifically at defense, and might even go so far as to pay the high price for Kevin Shattenkirk in the hopes that not only will he help the team this postseason but also sign long term. This would be yet another season of punching the “win now” button, although if Shatty does re-sign with the Rangers it would certainly help them win in the future as well.
Let’s say the team isn’t truly a contender however, despite whatever management may think. If that’s the case you just gave up a blue chip prospect and a first, two things the Rangers don’t exactly have a lot of, in order to make another early exit with the hope that Shattenkirk re-signs all while knowing that he may very well not. This would be a nightmare scenario for the Rangers, especially if Shattenkirk’s contributions come in under expectations (I’m thinking of Eric Staal’s less than stellar performance last year here).
In the alternate, if this team doesn’t see itself as a contender, Jeff Gorton might instead choose to either stand pat, or try and recoup assets by trading for either picks or prospects. This would likely mean giving up some depth guys like Michael Grabner (not going to happen, I know) or Oscar Lindberg to teams that do see themselves making the push for a Cup this year. Even trading Rick Nash potentially, although I’d be loathe to see it transpire, could be a prudent move given the right return.
Because imagine if the Rangers changed their perspective even just one year out of the several that they’ve decided to go all in on their quest for a Cup. While I’m personally of the opinion that the Martin St Louis deal was alright to make, given that the alternative was re-signing Ryan Callahan and given MSL’s playoff contributions, if the team took a different tack last season we might be looking at a dramatically different squad down the road and potentially even now. Under those circumstances the Rangers would have passed on trading for Eric Staal, and likely would have dealt Keith Yandle, reaping a huge return from whatever team would’ve been desperate enough to trade for him. Wouldn’t it have been cool to be the team that robs another one blind for once?
The bottom line is this: it’s all about perspective, and the way that perspective lines up with reality. If this team thinks it’s a contender, and if it’s right, then adding at the deadline is the right way to go. If it’s not however, the risk is diminishing the team’s future chance at a Cup. On the flip side, if this team realizes that a championship this season is likely already foreclosed and instead chooses to recuperate assets by selling to those teams that do see themselves as having a shot, the Rangers could bolster their chances for next season and beyond. Jeff Gorton certainly has his work cut out for him in evaluating this team, and I don’t envy him. But introspection and self-evaluation are going to be critical at this trade deadline, and could have a significant effect on this team’s future chances, one way or another."Perspective matters heading into the trade deadline",