What Defensemen Could The Rangers Add?

I have no idea if I trust this guy to make the right decisions in the next few weeks (Zimbio).

Quite frankly, the Rangers (Biron excluded) produced absolutely nothing yesterday against the Habs, so I see absolutely no reason to put any effort into detailing the events of the game. Instead, lets focus on an issue that plagued them not only in that game, but the whole season. The Rangers have had great goaltending, contributions from all 4 lines, consistently reliable defending, a stellar PK, and younger players rising to the occasion. What they haven’t had is any success on the power play. Despite fighting for one of the lower playoff spots, anyone who has watched the Rangers more than once or twice this season knows that they are a team that could potentially do damage in the playoffs, regardless of seeding. Thus, it seems inevitable that Glen Sather, who is almost always involved at the trading deadline, will at least attempt to make a move to help the slumping PP. The deadline is February 28th this year, which is about a week earlier than usual. Since GM’s around the league will begin pulling the trigger on trades in the next 2 or so weeks, I think it would be relevant to go over a few players that Sather will likely look into acquring. Continue reading to see the list:

One thing that really annoys me with Glen Sather is the type of trades he has made on defense since the lockout. Even when the powerplay was pretty successful in 2005-2006, the Rangers still lacked a PP QB, and the need for one was obvious. Sather’s solution was to trade a 3rd round pick to Anaheim for Sandis Ozolinsh who had only played 17 games that season up to that point. Since then, Sather has continuously made similar moves, trading leftovers and middle-round draft picks to get redundant defensemen. The Christian Backman’s and Derek Morris’ of the league are not going to do anything for this team. We have enough depth on defense. If we’re only going to acquire yet another guy like that this trading deadline then we might as well not make a trade at all. Is losing guys like Nigel Dawes and 3rd round draft picks the end of the world? Absolutely not. However, if you’re going to make a move to improve the team, then actually make a move to improve the team instead of just giving Tortorella another name on the depth chart and hoping he sticks. Lets look at some guys Sather might target:

Sheldon Souray

Pros: Souray has fallen out of favor with Edmonton, so much that Oilers President Kevin Lowe waived him in the offseason and sent him to play for Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. If anything, the Oilers would LOVE to absolve themselves of Souray and his contract. Thus, it would take little, if anything at all for the Rangers to acquire him. In an ideal world, the Rangers could fix the powerplay with Souray while giving up no or insignificant assets. One option would be for the Oilers to place Souray on re-entry waivers, and if the Rangers were the lowest ranking claim then he would become our property at half of his current salary cap hit (5.4 Million). Another reason why acquiring Souray might make sense is his veteran leadership. On a blue-line that has Steve Eminger as the most experienced defenseman, and that’s only if he isn’t a healthy scratch, the Rangers sure would welcome the presence of an 11 year veteran who has played in 34 playoff games over his career. Finally, if Souray can get it together then he would be as helpful as anyone on the powerplay. In his last full NHL season, which was 2008-2009, Souray scored 12 powerplay goals. To put that into perspective, all Rangers defensemen have combined for 8 powerplay goals so far this season.

Cons: A move for Souray reeks of every single project that Sather has acquired as GM of the Rangers, and specifically the Ozolinsh situation. Souray played only 37 games last season after suffering a wide array of injuries. The fact that the Oilers, who are absolutely desperate for veteran help on the blue-line, saw no use for Souray should raise red flags, and with only 3 goals in 21 games in the AHL this year he’s not exactly doing much to prove Kevin Lowe wrong. I don’t see acquiring a 34 year old injury-prone defensemen who has fallen out of favor with his current team as someone I can be confident in, and a move for Souray seems like the typical shot in the dark move that Sather has made in the past. As much as I’d love for him to come here and succeed, my head produces images of Souray watching opposing wingers skate by him and Tortorella blasting him post-game.

Plausibility: Sather has been trading buddies with Kevin Lowe and the Oilers ever since he took over as Rangers GM. On top of that, the Souray-to-Rangers speculations have surfaced for the past two or so seasons. The Rangers interest in Souray is beyond speculation now though, as Glen Sather personally watched Souray one game and is flying in another scout to watch him for a couple more. Unless he’s gone completely senile and thinks Lawrence Nycholat is still Rangers property, I think it’s safe to assume that the Rangers’ interest in Souray is legitimate. If there’s one team in the league that can spend the money for Souray, it’s the Rangers. For better or worse, Souray is the most likely acquisition in the next few weeks.

Tomas Kaberle

Pros: Tomas Kaberle is far and away the best offensive defenseman that could potentially be traded. Since the 1999-2000 season, Kaberle has produced at least 31 points every season, and is currently on pace for 50 this season. If there is one guy on the trade market that could dramatically change the dynamic of this Rangers powerplay and team in general, it’s Kaberle.

Cons: In terms of on-ice effects, there are virtually no drawbacks to acquiring Kaberle. However, there are other significant issues with acquiring him. Because of how good Kaberle is, almost every team that is in the playoff hunt will at least look into acquiring him. The Rangers are going to have to give up significant assets in the forms of one of our top prospects, and our first round pick, if not more. Sather is going to have to decide if it is worth giving up assets that could become important players for this team long-term in order to get Kaberle for a season that could end with a first or second round playoff defeat, especially because Kaberle is a free agent at the end of the year and could very easily sign elsewhere in July.

Plausibility: ESPN hockey writer Pierre Lebrun confirms the Rangers’ interest in Kaberle. However, the Rangers are going to have to compete with multiple teams for Kaberle’s services, and that’s if Leafs GM Brian Burke even wants to trade him at all. Between Kaberle’s No-Trade Clause, Burke’s fickle attitude towards trading Kaberle, and the assets the Rangers would be forced to give up in order to acquire him, I’d rate the Rangers chances of getting him as definitely possible but also unlikely.

Francois Beauchemin

Pros: Beachemin is another option from Toronto. Beauchemin makes sense if Sather either is unable to or doesn’t want to make a big trade for Kaberle. Beachemin also brings veteran presence to the club, and won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. Though his numbers are not unbelievably impressive at face value, his ability to make plays goes beyond the scoresheet. For example, his outlet passes are superior to anyone’s on the team currently. Beauchemin has also logged significant minutes for the Maple Leafs this season, so if nothing else, he is reliable and can prevent guys like Sauer, Gilroy, and McDonagh from being overwhelmed with minutes down the stretch and in the playoffs.

Cons: Beauchemin is no guarantee to help the power play. On one hand, he was stuck behind Pronger and Niedermayer in Anaheim for multiple years and has not gotten much time on the power play with Toronto, either. At the same time, though, in the PP time he HAS gotten he has been decent but not great by any means. Beauchemin also is signed for 3.8 million next year, so the Rangers would be making a commitment beyond this season. As opposed to a guy like Derek Morris, whose contract with the Rangers ran out at the end of the season, the Rangers would be stuck with Beauchemin next year regardless of how he plays this season, and that’s also limits Sather a lot in pursuing additions such as Brad Richards in the offseason.

Plausibility: Brian Burke will make any move that betters the Leafs situation, so if the Rangers make Burke an offer that he likes then a trade will be made. Beauchemin has played well enough for the Leafs to make Burke think about keeping him, though, and Burke will have even more reason to keep him if Kaberle is moved. While Beauchemin is as likely of a target as anyone, he and the Rangers have only been connected through third party speculation and there’s no reason to believe that anything in imminent.

Bryan McCabe

Pros: Though he has dropped off the past 2 years, McCabe has a history of being highly effective on the power play. McCabe also produces at even strength as well. He has a great shot from the point but also is capable of pinching into the slot and scoring from there. McCabe also fills in as a veteran presence. He is currently the captain of the Panthers and has been through the playoff experience multiple times with the Maple Leafs. He’s also a safer bet in terms of long-term effects. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so the Rangers can let him go if he doesn’t work out, and while he’ll bring Florida a decent return it’s nothing that would severely effect the Rangers farm system.

Cons: McCabe has settled down recently but he is very inconsistent, so much that he was basically forced out of Toronto. McCabe is by no means a physical defensemen and he looks lost sometimes in the defensive end. Regardless of how many points he puts up, Tortorella may not be fond of McCabe’s defensive efforts.

Plausibility: The Panthers are destined to be sellers this trading deadline, so the Panthers will absolutely be looking to trade McCabe and get a return on him, as opposed to letting him leave for nothing in July. There will be numerous teams inquiring about him, though, given his UFA status. He is definitely an option for Sather, but like Beauchemin, the idea of the Rangers acquiring him is only speculative and not based on anything the front office has said or done.

Other Possibilities:

Anton Babchuk (Calgary)

Filip Kuba (Ottawa)

Chris Campoli (Ottawa)

Unless Michael Del Zotto recaptures his form from the first half of last season or Glen Sather is completely unable to find an offer appealing to him, I can’t see the Rangers NOT acquiring a defenseman at the deadline. Last year was the only year since the lockout that Sather hasn’t made a move on defense at the trading deadline, and given the lack of experience on the blue-line combined with the need for improvement on the powerplay it is likely that Slats pulls the trigger on a deal. What move do you think should be made?

Tags: Anton Babchuk Bryan McCabe Chris Campoli Defensemen Edmonton Oilers Filip Kuba Francois Beauchemin Glen Sather Maple Leafs Michael Del Zotto New York Rangers Power Play Rangers Sheldon Souray Tomas Kaberle Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Trading Deadline

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