Thoughts following the trade deadline

brendan smith

The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Rangers made their big move on Tuesday, not yesterday. That big move was acquiring Brendan Smith for a pair of draft picks. They made three other minor league moves, but nothing that moves the needle or even impacts the Rangers that much. The focus is on Smith, his impact, and how the Rangers fare for the rest of the season. So let’s get into it.

1. The Smith trade is an upgrade on the current defense. Smith, despite being a lefty, is a RD and has history with Ryan McDonagh, as they were paired together at Wisconsin. That leads me to believe that Smith will get the top bidding even when Girardi returns. That is dependent on how well McDonagh and Smith play together, but at this rate anything is better than Girardi on the top pair. So in that regard, the Rangers have a major net positive.

2. If and when Girardi returns, I’d expect him to go to the third pair with Brady Skjei. It’s the best spot for him in the lineup. It’s also the only thing that makes sense right now, because the Rangers will not be successful in the playoffs with Girardi getting significant minutes every night. He’s still a good shot generator, but he simply cannot skate well enough anymore to prevent top players from going right around him. It’s a sad truth of the 2017 version of Dan Girardi. That said, with him on the third pair, Kevin Klein’s spot is in the press box.

3. Speaking of getting paired with Brady Skjei, I expect Klein to replace Adam Clendening when ready. Despite Clendo’s good play, Alain Vigneault likely won’t keep Klein out of the lineup at his expense. But the defense pairings slated for tonight’s game are the best we’ve seen all year. It’s unfortunate that it took a pair of injuries for that to happen, but that’s how it works sometimes. And it’s worth noting that without Smith, the Rangers would still be running with both Girardi and Klein in the lineup.

4. The rumor is that the Rangers are going to look to re-sign Smith at the end of the year. That makes sense, and he would likely come cheaper than you think. He’s one of those guys that does the small things right but doesn’t show up on the score sheet. Think Anton Stralman before he exploded for points in Tampa Bay. But because he doesn’t put up the points, his cost will be lower. He’s likely a $3-$3.5 million player for three years. If he’s playing effective minutes in the top-four, that’s a bargain.

5. The $64,000 question is whether the Smith trade did enough for the Rangers to truly compete with Washington and Pittsburgh. The answer is a very simple no. This trade moves the needle enough to give them a much better shot of getting out of the Atlantic should they get the top wild card spot, but it’s not enough to beat Washington and Pittsburgh. Both teams have comparable forwards and significantly better defense. The Rangers still hold the ultimate wild card in Henrik Lundqvist, but I still don’t think he’s enough to beat either team in a seven game series.

6. Warning: Expect Pierre McGuire to lose his mind on the Wisconsin connection between Smith, McDonagh, and Derek Stepan.

7. As for the rest of the deadline, there wasn’t much available that would have helped the Rangers out. With Kevin Shattenkirk off the table, there weren’t many viable options for the price. Maybe 39-year-old Mark Streit? I don’t think that’s a good fit. But no other defenseman that was moved was a good fit. Perhaps for the best. Sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make.

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  • I feel that Brendan Smith was is a very slight improvement. Not really making us much better than before, but giving us more depth on defense.

    I would have liked to see Gorton make some moves on the offensive side, since the defensive side dried up quickly. Iginla went pretty cheap (4th rounder) and I would have taken a flyer on him for that cheap price. We still have Stepan who has produced nothing, and I feel needs a change of scenery. Our top 6 have gone cold. An injection of life could do wonders, if it came cheap enough, and was Cap-friendly and expansion-draft-intelligent.

    Gorton is smart, so I am guessing it wasn’t out there, but we are not comparable to the Caps or Pens at this point.

  • I didn’t want to see what other teams did, and I’m sort of glad we didn’t make any other moves this year, it would have been like spitting in the wind, it only comes back at you. As for Smith, I don’t know too much about the man, but it could be an improvement over what we have currently?????

    I’ll be interested in what moves Gorton makes, or can make, based on his limited ability to move four players with NMC. I just hope we continue to get younger, but we need some grit to go along with that. Now all the non-contact people will get out of shape for this remark.

  • I am with you, we need grit and toughness.
    I think the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup before we do as long as we have this coach and team structure.

      • ah….you forgetting that team had Crosby, Malkin and Kessel….yeah…you did….and 1 flash in the pan does not make for THE formula…..did you forget all the others who won before Pitt were heavy teams? Yeah you did

        • The Blackhawks were definitely not heavy teams. The only guy that could have been considered a heavy is Brian Bickell

        • Past 10 Stanley Cup winners:
          2006 Hurricanes. More skill and speed then size
          2007 Ducks Balanced but by average Time on Ice, skill played more
          2008 Red Wings. Speed skill
          2009 Penguins. Speed skill
          2010 Blackhawks. Speed skill. Not nearly as big as you think they are
          2011 Bruins. Balanced like Ducks.
          2012 Kings. Ok big team
          2013 Blackhawks. See 2010.
          2014 Kings. See 2012
          2015 Blackhawks see 2010, 2013
          2016 Penguins. Speed skill.

          Dave Bolland? Heavy? 6′ 184lbs?
          Hawks needed Jamal Mayers so much in the playoffs he saw exactly 0 minutes of ice and did not dress in a single game.
          If by Stanton you mean Ryan Stanton, defenseman don’t forechecking and he saw, again 0 games.
          Andrew Shaw a “heavy”? 5’10” 179lbs?
          Marchand? Zucc is bigger than him! Carcillo was so vital to the hawks he saw a total of 27 minutes of ice time in the playoffs. Thornton, same thing. 125 minutes over 18 games. Around 6 minutes of ice each. Real difference makers huh?

          6 of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners were based off speed and skill. The two Kings championships were the only size over speed and skill winners.

      • Hey Al, I certainly understand what you are saying, but as Leatherneck (Semper Fi, Brother) correctly pointed out, Pitt is a dynamic offensive team, that had a back-up goal tender emerge as a true #1. They still beat us, like a drum, 4 games to 1.
        I am the furthest from a Penguin fan as you can get. There is nothing I like about that team that isn’t named Haglin or Cullen. But even Pitt, has Hornqvist who plays a physical game (FAR more physical then any Ranger in last years playoffs) and Kunitz & Kuhnhackl who play physical.
        I do not think there is ANY path for us to get out of the east.
        I applaud Gorton for what he DIDN’T do at the deadline.

  • I am glad that Gorton did not bend and let the other teams fleece him for rentals. The reports were that the other franchises were looking to do just that. While the Rangers need improvements, there are smart ways and dumb ways to go about it. Gorton so far is a smart guy. Hopefully he has another decent offseason.

  • Does this mean that by NOT trading stepan his NMC kicks in and we are stuck with him, like we are stuck with girardi and stall for years to come… his play continues to diminish????//
    Or can we still trade him after the season ????

    I have to wonder if management is watching the games, specifically stepans play, or lack of it…….so obvious zib and hayes are better and lindberg absolutely will be soon if not already at way lower cost………

    Are we destined to lose grabner or lindberg because of this?????

    • I think the Rangers’ coaches and management see Stepan differently. They likely see him as a good two way center who is dependable to produce 50 points a year, who is young and a team player. I think if they were not satisfied with his production they would not have signed him long term in 2015.

      So, cap hit if 6.5 mil for at least 2 more seasons due to the NTC that kicks in starting next season (not sure what month.) I have a feeling that they have no intention of trading him.

    • From what I hear NYR management prefers to watch Real Housewives of New York and House Hunters rather than the games. They get most of their info regarding players’ performance from reading blogs.

      • Haha…well, I don’t know if that last part is true, because if they read here or Blueshirt Banter for example – or most things not written by the beat writers, to be honest – Dan Girardi wouldn’t have ever seen the top pair this season, and may even have been bought out prior to the season. Jesper Fast would have never seen the first line this season. Clendening would be playing more to give The Wonder Triplets (I’m tossing Klein in there now too; he’s gotten that bad) plenty of nights off. Buch would have been playing through his struggles, not watching games from the press box. AV would not continue to chew his gum so aggressively or in such quantity. Etc.

        • Don’t forget how much better the team would be if they listened more to fans commenting on blogs, kept McIlrath and gave him regular playing time!

    • Have you looked at Stepan lately? He looks a lot like Tanner Glass. In fact, I think he and AV are roomies on the road. Just sayin . . . .

      • He’s the 3d leading scorer on a team that’s 4th in the league in offense and he’s an excellent defensive forward on a team that, despite having a mediocre D-corp, is still 11th in the NHL in GAA – due in no small part to how well the forwards play in their own zone. Is he over-payed relative to his value? By a bit. But he’s a solid two-way center, an important part of the team’s success over the past five years and certainly not one of the issues facing the team or its prospects this season.

        • Stepan has produced more points than Nash in each Season they’ve been teammates except ’14-’15, playing more games too, but costing less. Nash is being paid to be a beast but except for one season injuries have kept him from being a beast most of the time.

          I am not saying that he is great, but Stepan is a good #2 center who’s does not cost that much. The Rangers don’t have a Crosby or a McDavid. I’d sure like a Messier type as a #1. How do we get one?

        • Might be a bit hyperbole to compare him to Glass – I don’t recall Stepan taking himself out of the play and leaving his man wide open to try and finish a check on a player at mid ice who is clearly about to pass the puck that, even if said check is finished, does not phase or impair the opposing player. Sometimes followed later on in the game by a fight in which Glass neither enforces anything or intimidates anyone. I call that the “Tanner Glass Signature Special”.

          Is Step flashy? No. Speed demon? No. Monster-sized meathead? No. Really steady producing 1A or 2 type center? Yes. Responsible with the puck? Yes. Defensively above average for a forward? Yes. A bit overpaid perhaps? Arguably. Astronomically overpaid? No.

          I definitely would have been okay with Gorton trading him, but only if the return was a established and young can’t-miss top four RD or a clear upgrade over Step at C. That didn’t happen though, and I’m not too worried about it because Step is doing just fine. If he’s a problem, I bet he’s a problem a lot of teams would like to have. If Gorton was even dangling Step at all, apparently teams just didn’t want to give up the talent price it would cost them.

          • could it be we over rate, and or over value this guy?

            I’m of the opinion that he is indeed over paid, now that’s for certain !!!!!!

          • Of course it’s possible! However, SJ gets similar ballpark production from Couture, for example. Couture makes $6M and produces a bit more points per game, although not by much. Couture scores more goals. I do think Step is a bit overpaid. He’s the 18th highest paid center in the game, and I would not say the 18th best. So, I get that.

            However…for those who view number one centers strictly as needing to be 6’3″+, 210lbs+, with 80+ points a year – at least 40 of those coming from goals…yeah. Would be nice. Problem is, there are only a handful of those guys in the entire league, and they make significantly more than Step (of course with the exception of those still young enough to have not hit their first big payday).

            Does he belong more in the $5.75M cap hit range? Sure. I could agree with that. However, never blame the player for the contract. Some folks throw his name around like he’s dead weight on the team though, and that’s just not true.

    • Rich you know Lindberg is only a year younger than Stepan, right? Why do you see Lindberg making a quantum leap from a 20-25 point player to a 55 point player? I like Lindberg, but I don’t see him as much more than a skilled 4C and guy that can play the 3C in short spurts.

      I understand Stepan isn’t the flashiest player, but he does have 7 years of really solid NHL production under his belt. Like Peter said, Stepan is reliable, he’s a lock for at least 50 points every year and plays a very good 2 way game. As a bonus, by time Stepan’s speed really tails off, around age 31 or 32, his current contract will be up and the Rangers will likely let him walk.

        • The problem is, Stepan is not a go-to goal scorer. Many teams want, let me re-phrase, NEED, their #2 center to score big goals. Stepan has 50 points, but is always around 15 goals. I would rather have a #2 center scoring 25 goals with 50 points. And no, it is NOT the same.

          Yes he is a two way player, but this team needs goal scorers. Krieder has gone into his yearly 20 game gopher hole. Nash is prepping for the playoffs. Hayes and JT seems to have lost their stride in the last 5 games. Where has Zinbad gone? It would be nice to count on your #2C to put some more in the net. You cannot count on Stepan to do that. If his wingers scored more, it wouldn’t be so necessary, but they don’t. Maybe when Vesey scores 30, it will all be okay. Today it isn’t.

      • Derek Stepan’s career/team ranking:
        2011-12: 4th (points)
        2012-13: 1st
        2013-14: 2d
        2014-15: 3d
        2015-16: 3d
        2016-17: T3d

        • Yes, Lindberg showed me something this year. He looked like trash the first 10-15 games, but really hit his stride after that. I’ll gladly chalk that first stretch of the season to him working out the kinks from last summer’s hip operations.

  • Dave,

    I dont think Girardi is a first pair defensemen anymore, but when he returns I see AV slotting him back next to Mcdonagh. Maybe not the first shift, but at first time of shakeup, that may not even happen first game but I dont think it will take long. From what Ive heard from a couple of my friends who are red wings fans, hes not good enough to force AVs hand. That glaring mistake that hell make, as stated by the red wing blogger youve mentioned(on twitter and previous article), may lead to AV going back to his dried up well. Maybe Im wrong, but Im going off going of his past line up moved.

  • Don’t know much about Brendan Smith, other than he’s a good skater who plays with an edge & has not lived up to his potential. Hell, he can’t be any worse than Holden or Clendo, so let’s see what he can do over a 5 game span.

    • I spoke with a friend of mine who is a big Red Wing fan. He said if you liked Klein before Klein’s downward spiral, you’ll like Smith.

      • That’s good news. One of the keys to the team’s turnaround in 2013-14 regular season and the run to the SCF was getting Klein for MDZ.

      • LOL! Unfortunately Jerry I’ve never liked Klein that much, except when he was scoring like a forward, which everyone knew wouldn’t last. But maybe I’ll like Smith more than I liked Klein.

  • The Pens the Caps and the CBJ would pay a hefty price physically after the first two rounds of the playoffs in the meat grinder which is the Metro div.

    If the rangers get out of the Atlantic, maybe they wouldn’t face a full healthy squad of the Pens or the Caps, which is in the Rangers favor.

    I don’t mind the NYR play the Caps in the latter rounds, I think NYR can play with them. I am really worried if they play the Pens, especially a healthy full squad Pens.

  • Dave, I gave you a thumbs up, a good read, however, I don’t like the fact that you summarily dismiss this team from winning this post season. This is a good team with a good offense and a great goalie. Granted, it is an uphill climb, but insurmountable? I think not. I find it sad for you and other Ranger fans like you, that you don’t have the fun of being able to root for your team to win the cup because you have already decided that they can’t.

  • Man, if we get there, all that matters is momentum. Remember in 2010 when inferior Montreal and Philadelphia teams (7th and 8th seeds) made the ECF? Both teams came together, didn’t listen to all the talk, and just won hockey games. Montreal got their with no Carey Price and with Scott Gomez getting major minutes and Philly got there with Michael Leighton in net.

    Anything can happen, boys.

    Best time of the year. Let’s go Rangers!

  • Even with a dip over the past 7 games (3-3-1), the NYR are still 7th in the NHL in points per game — and only .05 out of 4th (and .08 out of 3d). The only team in the conference that would be a solid favorite to beat us is Washington. That’s it. One team with a lousy playoff history. Gorton has improved our weakest element. A huge improvement? No, but our D is better. If we’re healthy, (and if Hank is Hank-ish) we’re in an excellent position to make a serious Cup run. Can’t ask for much more than that.

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