Trading Deadline Eve Speculation

Hope for the best, but have no expectations. It's always an adventure with Glen Sather at the wheel (Howlings).

Tough loss today vs. the Lightning. To be honest, the Rangers did well enough. Sure, they didn’t get much offense going in the first period, but the were the better team the rest of the game. I rarely will point to officiating as a primary reason for losing but it’s hard to ignore it. The Rangers got screwed on Girardi’s boarding call as well as Dubinsky’s interference. Tortorella bluntly called out the referees, stating that their calls were “horse shit,” and that he wishes “the league” would stop interfering with games and just let the teams play. He’ll likely be getting a call and fine from the league, but knowing Tortorella, he probably couldn’t care less.

But the Rangers have to move on. So Blue Line Station will, too. The Rangers are aiming to maintain a playoff spot, but first order of business is getting through the trading deadline. The Rangers already made one move in acquiring Bryan McCabe, but there are still many avenues Glen Sather has yet to fully explore. Everything moves at an incredibly fast pace on trading deadline day, so while we had multiple weeks to contemplate the addition of McCabe, most of what is going to be talked about tomorrow will be more reactionary instead of foreshadowing. Thus, right now is one of the last chances we’ll have to sit back and contemplate the options. Let’s evaluate whom the Rangers might be targeting as well as who might be on the block:

Possible Additions

Brad Richards- Majority of the talk from now until tomorrow regarding the Rangers will be about Dallas Stars center Brad Richards. As I alluded to in a previous article, the Richards dilemma is not too much different from the one the Knicks went through with Carmelo Anthony. It’s no secret that Richards and John Tortorella have a good relationship, and that the Rangers are one of Richards’ top targets, if not his number one priority. Richards is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and he has made it clear that he is not resigning in Dallas as long as their ownership is in limbo, and that situation is not going to be resolved overnight. Therefore, Glen Sather has to decide; do the Rangers wait until the season is over to go after Richards and risk having to pay the full market price for him, or even lose him outright to another team? Or do the Rangers sacrifice the assets in order to add Richards for the playoff run this year as well as ensure him remaining with the team long term, perhaps with a more manageable contract (The Rangers surely wouldn’t trade for him without a verbal agreement with Richards on an extension.) Of course, a lot of Sather’s decision will be based on what assets would have to be given up.

Likelihood of a Trade: On one hand, the Stars at least appear to be content with keeping Richards for the rest of the season. However, this could be a bluff by Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk in order to give him the bargaining power. One report that has surfaced is that the Stars will only listen to offers from Eastern Conference teams. Richards’ no-trade clause narrows down the possibilities even further. Thus, the Rangers aren’t going to have much competition for his services. The Leafs are the only other Eastern team to legitimately show interest in him. The Rangers aren’t really going to be bidding against any other teams; the question is if the Sather can win a game of Chicken with the Stars and bring down the price for Richards to a level that Sather is okay with. What that might be is anybody’s guess. This is a situation that is going to come down to the wire.

Ales Hemsky- Hemsky is another option the Rangers might discuss. On one hand, Hemsky would for sure add more skill to a team that could use any offensive talent it can get. The problem with him is that he’s not too different from a guy like Wolski in that his talent doesn’t show up every night. Furthermore, do the Rangers want to be committed to having on the books for next year as well? Granted, offense is offense, Hemsky doesn’t address the primary need that is a playmaker.

Likelihood of a Trade: Hemsky is beginning to fall out of favor with Edmonton and the Oilers have multiple young wingers, such as Taylor Hall, Linus Omark, and Magnus Svensson-Pajaarvi, that are aiming to surpass him. Especially with the Oilers nowhere near playoff contention and Hemsky’s contract running out next year, Hemsky might be dangled. The Rangers offensive woes, his reasonable contract (expiring 2013, 4.1 million per year), and Sather’s well established relationship with Oilers management makes Hemsky a possible target for the Rangers. Again, price will have an influence. The Oilers might be content with keeping Hemsky, thinking that he might bring them more next year as a rental. A deal is not out of the question, but don’t count on it.

Jason Arnott- I know, you probably just gagged at the idea of making a trade with the Devils. I did too. However, the Devils’ attempt at a cinderella run might not get in the way of them offloading assets, and specifically an older UFA-to-be in Jason Arnott. Arnott is clearly a lesser player than Richards at this point in his career, but you get what you pay for. Though he’s not a true first line center at this point in his career, the Rangers could do worse. Arnott’s stats- 13 goals and 11 assists- are far from impressive, but virtually every single Devils player’s stats have deflated this season.

Likelihood of a Trade: Arnott acknowledged after tonight’s game against the Panthers that he might decide to request a trade in order to go to a playoff contender. The Fourth Period, which is hit or miss, speculates that the Rangers are a potential target. You would have to think that the Rangers might be a team Arnott would want to go to. Playing next to Marian Gaborik might boost his stats enough to make teams in the offseason offer him a more desirable contract, and moving across the Hudson River to play for the Rangers would serve as little inconvenience for him and his family. The Rangers would be addressing their need for an offensive center, and Larry Brooks wrote last summer that Arnott was targeted by Sather when he was with the Predators, but that Nashville asked for Ryan McDonagh. Thus, there’s reasonable evidence to support the idea that both parties would be interested. The big hurdle, of course, is getting over the fact that the Rangers would be dealing with the Devils. I don’t see Lou Lamoriello wanting to help the Rangers this year and I don’t see Sather wanting to brighten New Jersey’s future. A trade is a longshot for this reason, but don’t completely count it out.

AHL Forward- A combination of injuries, call ups by the Rangers, and the loss of Tim Kennedy in the McCabe trade has left the Hartford offense depleted. After talking to Leslie Carr of Beyond The Blueshirts and she believes that Sather will have to add a forward for Hartford of some kind. A depth forward would be nice to have beyond his benefits for Hartford, however. If the Rangers manage to make the playoffs, then insurance is absolutely never a bad thing to have, especially with the frequency that injuries appear to be hitting the Rangers this year.

On The Move?

Once Staal comes back, the Rangers will have eight defensemen in total. Technically, Michael Del Zotto was sent down, but that was simply to create the roster spot for McCabe so that he could play today. John Tortorella told the media that, despite being reassigned to Connecticut, he is still in New York as of now and that Tortorella will “review what he wants to do with him.” If the Rangers were 100% committed to sending Del Zotto down, then why would they keep him in New York over the weekend? The unofficial but obvious answer is that the Rangers might be preparing for the possibility of trading a defenseman.

Steve Eminger:

Why he might be kept: He likely wouldn’t bring very much back in a trade, maybe a late round draft pick. Eminger is also the second oldest defenseman on the team, has been around, and would not be rattled by the hype of the playoffs. Since his contract is up at the end of the year, the Rangers don’t have to worry about him beyond this season, so there’s no pressing need to get him out.

Why he might be dealt: Well, first is the most obvious reason in that he’s been scratched more times than not in the past 8-10 games. He has no value to the Rangers beyond this year, so they might prefer to move him ahead of other players who could help the team in future years. Since his contract runs out at the end of the year, a team who needs a plug on defense to fill in for injury purposes or to hold the spot of a defenseman traded for the time being might target Eminger.

Matt Gilroy:

Why he might be kept: His play has gotten better as the season has gone on. He is one of the best skaters on the team, and Tortorella likes players who can skate. Gilroy’s natural ability to go down low is also helpful on the offense and is a skill that only Staal is really able to match. The Rangers coaching staff might think that Gilroy, only in his 2nd professional season, might still have some untapped potential that they want to invest in.

Why he might be dealt: At the end of the season, Gilroy will be a restricted free agent, and will have to be offered a qualifying offer of almost two million. From there, his contract might even get bigger. Two million dollars is a lot to invest in a player who could be a healthy scratch for half of next season. Thus, the Rangers might want to get something for him right now instead of let him walk away for nothing at the end of the year. There are surely multiple teams that could use a young defenseman and might be more willing to give him time than the Rangers, who are competitive right now and have defensive prospects knocking on the door, can offer him. The Rangers could definitely get a solid offer for him.

Michael Del Zotto:

Why he might be kept: Del Zotto is definitely the least likely to be moved out of the three defenders. Despite his struggles, he is only 20 and in his second professional season, and he showed us last year that he has tons of potential. The Rangers certainly are not going to give up on him as quickly as many fans might be hoping for. Del Zotto has shown in more than flashes what kind of player he can be, and a lot of his needed growth is mental as much as it is physical or technical. After trading Bobby Sanguinetti, Del Zotto is the only defensive prospect in the system that even remotely resembles an offensive defenseman.

Why he might be dealt: Though I’m close to certain that much of it is a bunch of crap, I would be remiss not to mention the buzz, no matter how dull, that has surrounded Del Zotto as the deadline approached. If the Rangers aim big, such as for Brad Richards, then Del Zotto’s inclusion might be necessary. His value around the league is high even with his struggles this season. If it’s a trade that truly makes the Rangers a significantly better team then Del Zotto might be moved. He’s not going to be traded just for the sake of trading him, though.

Erik Christensen:

Why he might be kept: His offense comes once in a blue moon, but when it comes he does make a difference. The Rangers haven’t been healthy the whole year so trading him would only make full sense if Sather knows he is going to be replaced in the lineup, whether by a currently injured Ranger or via an external addition. On a team that has been putrid at faceoffs, it’s not ideal to get rid of a center, either.

Why he might be dealt: Injuries might be the only reason he’s remained with the team this far into the season. His greatest contribution to the Rangers this season has been in the shootout, which of course doesn’t exist in the playoffs. If the Rangers make a move for another forward then he might be included, or perhaps he is sent elsewhere to add a prospect/pick back to the pool.

That’s it for now. I expect nothing but confusion, strong emotions, and an all around chaotic storm tomorrow. Keep in mind that everything you see or hear should be taken with a grain of salt, including this post. The Rangers may very well not add or trade a single player I listed. At the same time, for all I know Sather makes 3 moves involving players nobody even though to speculate about. Such is the trading deadline. My general feeling is that the Rangers are going to go Richards or bust, and if they don’t get him then no major move will be made at all. Outside of that, a depth forward might be added, and one of Gilroy and Eminger could be moved. Make sure to check back here, where I will be updating you all on the latest scoop as it comes out, as well as on twitter at @BlueLineStation.

Remember The Two Key Rules of the Trading Deadline:

1. Most of what you hear won’t come to fruition

2. Expect the unexpected.

Topics: Ales Hemsky, Brad Richards, Erik Christensen, Glen Sather, Injuries, Jason Arnott, Matt Gilroy, Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers, Rangers, Steve Eminger, Trades, Trading Deadline

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