Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the trading deadline is now only four days away and the New York Rangers still have not made a move. After the market exploded about a week ago with numerous significant trades within two days, we saw the eye of the storm so to speak, with almost no movement in the past few days. Everyone is expecting the Rangers to eventually make a move of some sort and Glen Sather all but confirmed it to be the case. Now is right about the time that teams begin placing unneeded players on waivers in order to clear up a roster space as well as salary cap space. Let’s look at some movement news and speculation:
Nikolay Zherdev- The Flyers placed former Rangers winger Nikolay Zherdev on waivers on Monday. Zherdev, who was signed by Philadelphia in the offseason to a 1 year deal for two million dollars, was of course a former Ranger who spent last season in the KHL after the Rangers let him walk away after arbitration. Zherdev has decent stats with 15 goals in his 47 games played this season, but he’s shown the same streakiness he did in New York. Once the Flyers acquired left winger Kris Versteeg Zherdev was redundant. However, nobody claimed Zherdev on waivers so it will be interesting to see what happens with him next. The Flyers could choose to send him to the AHL if they want to.
Ales Kotalik- Another streaky former Rangers winger was placed on waivers, except this time it was Ales Kotalik and he was put on re-entry waivers. Even at the cost of only half of his 3 million dollar salary, no team placed a claim on him. Kotalik has 3 goals and 0 assists in the 20 games he has played with Calgary this season. Though it required us to painfully watch Olli Jokinen wear a Rangers jersey for 26 games, former Flames GM Darryl Sutter surely gave the Rangers a gift in taking on Kotalik and his contract, which runs through next season, and giving us Brandon Prust in the process.
Craig Rivet- The Buffalo Sabres placed veteran defenseman Craig Rivet on waivers, but he too cleared. Rivet is signed at a bloated 3.5 million dollars but his contract does expire at the end of the season. Buffalo is expected to put him on re-entry waivers very soon, and the Rangers putting a claim on him can’t be completely dismissed right now. He would be virtually no help offensively and defensively he’s not exactly the best option, but Sather has to make a move on defense of some kind and if Rivet is the best realistic scenario then adding him would be better than making no move at all.
Alexei Kovalev- The always enigmatic Alexei Kovalev was traded from Ottawa back to the Pittsburgh Penguins for his second stint with the team. After signing a 1 year 5 million dollar contract with Ottawa in the offseason, he was the victim of accusations of him not trying hard enough, something he’s more than used to at this point in his career. he Penguins sent a conditional 7th round pick in return, which turns into a 6th rounder if Pittsburgh advances past the 1st round of the playoffs and Kovalev plays in at least half of the games. I’m usually against acquiring former Rangers, usually because the fanbase usually lets nostalgia take priority over what will logically make the team better. However, in this case I think the Rangers were silly not to trade for Kovalev. Yes, the guy is an enigma, and Tortorella could easily get sick of him after a few games. However, the reality of the current Rangers team is that they aren’t winning the Stanley Cup this year unless they defy all odds. Thus, what would they have to lose in acquiring him? He’s lost a bit of speed but he still has great hands and a rocket shot, and has had some success on the point of Ottawa’s power play this season. At worst, he’d be irrelevant and the Rangers lose themselves a 7th round pick. But imagine if he got his stuff together? I think the Rangers made a mistake here.
Atlanta/Montreal- And you can now make that four inconsistent former Rangers wingers making news. The Atlanta Thrashers traded Nigel Dawes and veteran defenseman Brent Sopel to Montreal in exchange for center prospect Ben Maxwell and a 4th round draft pick. In Sopel the Habs pick up a veteran defenseman, which they need with Markov and Gorges being out for the season. I’m also personally speculating that Dawes might have been acquired due to Montreal expecting to need a wing replacement if they trade Andrei Kostitsyn. Atlanta dumps a bit of salary and gains a decent center prospect in Ben Maxwell, who was once highly touted but has been surpassed by multiple forwards in Montreal’s system.
Brad Richards- Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk has stated publicly that the team has no plans to trade center Brad Richards. However, anyone would be naive to believe this is the case. Brad Richards is a free agent at the end of the year and has said nothing to make anyone believe he plans on returning to Dallas. Though the playoff race is extremely tight in the Western Conference, the Stars are currently on the outside looking in and there is absolutely no guarantee that they make it to the playoffs. Thus, the Stars better at least be exploring trade possibilities. New York Post Rangers beat writer Larry Brooks insists that the Rangers and Stars have had talks concerning Richards, but that so far the asking price is way too high. According to Brooks, Nieuwendyk asked for “Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky, and Derek Stepan” for the UFA, currently concussed center, which is absolutely laughable. Nieuwendyk would be successful to even Derek Stepan away from the Rangers for Richards, let alone Dubinsky and Staal as well. Rangers fans don’t have to worry about any of those three moving anywhere, but the Rangers will still have to give up relatively significant pieces in order to trade for Brad Richards. This is somewhat resembling the Carmlo Anthony saga the Knicks went through, though to a lesser extent. It is no secret that the New York Rangers are one of Brad Richards’ top choices, if not his very first choice. The Rangers are going to have to decide if they are willing to let him go to free agency and risk him signing elsewhere or if it’s worth giving up assets in order to acquire him now and ensure he signs and extension with the team. In the same article, Brooks confirms that the Rangers are interested in Bryan McCabe and that Florida has discussed it with them, but that no serious negotiations have taken place as of now.