Quick thoughts on trading for defensemen in an already logjammed system

One of the themes of the offseason is trading for defensive help. With Erik Karlsson off the market, that appears to be the path with the most options, since the UFA bin is limited to Jake Gardiner –a decent option we will cover here in a future post– and not much else. But with these discussions comes a frequent concern/question about how to fit these new acquisitions in with about 900 defensemen already on the roster.

In the case of potentially trading for Colin Miller, an option I’m preferring over trading for Jacob Trouba, the question is always about where he slides in. The Rangers need to be creating room for prospects, not creating more roadblocks, right? I mean, I can’t argue that logic at all, it’s a fair concern.

But as we’ve learned with Lias Andersson, putting unfair expectations on a prospect doesn’t help them at all. Rushing a prospect doesn’t help them at all. K’Andre Miller comes with a lot of hype and talent, but throwing him to the wolves right off the bat doesn’t help him. Ditto Adam Fox and Libor Hajek. Development is crucial, and with that comes a need to fill out the NHL roster. Filling out the NHL roster with players that are actually good is an insurance factor as well.

The Blueshirts have a ton of defensive prospects, of which only Hajek has seen some NHL time. There’s no way all of these kids pan out. If all of Hajek, Fox, Tarmo Reunanen, Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Yegor Rykov, Ryan Lindgren, and Joey Keane all wind up hitting, then that’s one hell of a great problem to have. Statistically speaking, though, half won’t make the NHL. Of the other half, some won’t hit their potential, and some will be used as trade bait. Plus it’s not like all are going to hit the NHL at the same time.

A rebuild isn’t just about getting prospects to the NHL. It’s about filling in the roster with other role players that will be a net-positive on the ice. If a prospect is a net-negative, like Neal Pionk today, then there’s no reason to really save a roster spot for him.

Which brings us to the next and possibly most important point: You can clear roster room easier than you can find legitimate bodies. Clearing room isn’t overly difficult. It just seems difficult right now because of some contracts. With those contracts set to expire before some of these kids will be truly ready for the NHL, it becomes less of an issue.

When it comes to landing NHL talent right now, you assume there will be changes made with the guys currently on the roster. Does Vegas think a deal with Neal Pionk is enough for Colin Miller? Well that solves one problem. Will a 50% retained Kevin Shattenkirk entice someone, perhaps Tampa, who missed out on Erik Karlsson? Well there goes another problem. Does 50% retained Brendan Smith have any value as a bottom pair defenseman? Probably – and there goes a third body. All of this is hypothetical, of course, but there are ways to clear roster space.

Coming full circle, with no certainty on who is a part of the Rangers’ future and who will actually make it, landing bodies that make the team better in the present and future is a priority for the Rangers (and basically all NHL teams). Problems like too many players work themselves out through trades, injuries, and regular NHL attrition. Too many bodies is a good problem to have.

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  1. don’t try and tell these “youth movement” nut cases some prospect wont make the team.
    They’ll all awesome.
    Until they aren’t then it’s someone’s fault -then screaming happens and tempers flare. A call for head to roll will be issued.
    a complete management rebuild….

    Wait until they come to the realization that this is a worst draft in 15 years. That when they finally got their shot at a top 3 prospect, there was really only 1. number 2 is just the so much better than the rest, but not near enough to be 1st.
    Picks 3 through 13 are same level of talent. But 14-40 are all the same. no outstanding tier difference there.

    Everyone thinks their shopping on 5th Ave. I got news for ya, this is Kmart and you’re on the blue light special line.

    1. I’m one of the “youth movement” nut cases, and love what the future looks like. I assume that you are one of the dinosaur fans, the older the player, the better, that got us 1 cup in the last 78 years. Give it up dude, the names aren’t needed, and admit your wrong!!!!!

    2. I just wasted 30 seconds of my life that I can’t get back reading your post.
      Nonsensical, unintelligent, inaccurate……
      Must be a fish stick fan

  2. Fox will need some load management, but looks ready.

    Rykov? Who knows. I’ll see at Traverse City.

    Reunanen? Doubt it. Gilmour’s replacement, that’s it.

    Lundkvist is years away and doubt it even then.

    Keane has looked good, but is 2 years away.

    Day looked better the last half of the season, has the possibility to get games 2 years from now as expansion draft fodder.

    Lindgren is bottom pair at best.

    Miller is years away.

    There’s not really a logjam beyond the crappy contracts blocking everything up.

    1. Which is why I’ll be happy if they just move one of the 3 S’s … but I’ll also be happy if they don’t tie themselves up in knots by bringing in some higher priced older d’man on a mid to long term contract.

      Just as some prospects will never see the NHL, some prospects will meet expectations and a very few will exceed expectations. There might not be a true logjam in the end (2-3 years from now), but there are plenty of d’men to chose from and we don’t need to create a problem that doesn’t necessarily have to exist …

      Here’s my list of Ranger d’men I think can play (to varying degrees of course) or HAVE TO play in the NHL right now (no particular order):
      Shattenkirk, DeAngelo, Fox, Pionk (in a limited role), Staal, Skjei, Smith, Claesson, Hajek — that’s 9 d’men right there … and yes, Lindgren is 3rd pairing at best, but there’s an element to his game which is lacking in almost all our d’men. So if you want to bring in more d’men you best figure out a way to remove a couple (I assume they’ll not resign Claesson, even though he’s not the worst d’man on the above list).

      1. Maybe they won’t resign Claesson, but I think that would be dumb. He’s a competent NHL defenseman who likely will get less than a million dollar contract. In what world could you not trade such a player for a third or fourth round draft choice? And if a guy has trade value, why give him up for nothing. Worst case scenario: if you get stuck with him, you try to send him to Hartford, he gets claimed and you are off the hook.

        1. I agree 100% Raymond.

          For a team that does not have true NHL D man defenders, the Rangers can ill afford not to re-sign their BEST D man defender from last year.

        2. A week before qualifying offer deadline.

          Maybe they’re keeping their powder dry in case of trade, but you’d think if they were gonna do an offer better than qualifying, it’d be done by now.

          If they don’t offer, then somebody in Hartford is coming up to get his 70 games in 2 seasons to be expansion ready.

  3. Great post. As you say, the issue is getting quality players, not ridding ourselves of guys who are not excellent. If every prospect was suddenly a star, the Rangers could afford to carry Shattenkirk and Staal as seventh and eight defensemen this year and send everyone else who did not make the top six to Hartford.

    I don’t want Colin Miller though. I see him as another offense first RH defenseman who doesn’t belong on the first pair. I just don’t think he fills a need. As we wonder just how well the defense prospects will pan out, we should be thinking about the long term value of a player as he complements the rest.

  4. We have a logjam of mediocrity and unproven talent. If you can find a proven talent, who you can plug into the lineup, why not? Yes we need to move out some dead wood, and yes we need to create some opportunity for young guys, but if you can add, say Phil Kessel, then you do it, as he is better than what we currently have. BTW – Kessel is just an example of a B+ defenseman on a team where we have mostly C defensemen.

  5. Yes we have a lot of bodies and that is a good thing. Yes – some are mediocre and some are unproven.

    The incumbents are clearly a pretty mediocre bunch
    Shatty, Staal, Skjei, Smith, ADA, Pionk, Claesson

    Shatty, Staal, Smith – mediocre as they may be, they are proven NHL defensemen. Personally, I think all of the incumbents deserve a clean slate coming into camp. I just don’t advocate dumping them by keeping salary or buying them out without getting another good look at them with a season of DQ under their belt.

    Newbies – all are unproven for sure sure but:
    Fox – He better be ready for what we gave up
    Rykov – Seemingly a pretty high ceiling
    Hajek – Impressive in a limited audition
    Lindgren – Did OK in a limited look see
    Kane – ??
    Crawley – ??
    Day – ??

    Clearly the D needs to be upgraded, but this is going to be a transition year. We got high-end forward talent and a potential all-world goalie coming in. All I am asking is that we have a little patience with the D and see what we have before chasing anyone else.

    Next season’s trade deadline is a good time to start cutting bait.

  6. Karlsson off the market represents the first domino of the offseason to fall for D men.

    That’s why you see no buyouts right now, teams, including the Rangers, still looking to dump players on other teams. I expect a flurry of activity during the draft. Once the dust settles, then the buyouts should come from June 22 until the 30th.

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