Perhaps this will be the start of a new type of article on Blue Line Station. We shall see. The Rangers are playing the St. Louis Blues tonight and former New York Ranger Evgeny Grachev will be in the lineup. So now is a perfect time to look back on the trade that sent him to the Blues. Grachev requested a trade during the summer, feeling that his chances of sticking in the NHL were slim and wanting a fresh start elsewhere. Glen Sather granted him his wish and sent him to St. Louis at the draft, acquiring a 3rd round pick in return. And while the trade was the conclusion of the disappointing development of a prospect many originally proclaimed a blue-chipper, the Rangers made the best of it and acquired the best draft pick possible; and although Grachev left the Rangers with no choice but to move him and the return was not on par with the value many thought he had, the trade is looking to be a smart one early on.
There’s no doubt that Grachev was correct in thinking he had a better chance of playing in the NHL for another team. Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell have played well since being called up by the Rangers and Mike Rupp and Wojtek Wolski are soon going to be healthy. In a few days the Rangers are going to have 15 forwards on the roster with only 13 available spots, and this is with Mats Zuccarello, who has been fantastic with the Connecticut Whale, stuck in the minors. Unless the Rangers were hit with the plague, Grachev had no realistic shot of playing any more than a handful of games as a temporary call up.
On the Blues, however, Grachev did have a potential path to the NHL, and would in fact make the Blues out of training camp. Immediately it seemed that the trade was beneficial for both Grachev and the St. Louis Blues. However, that’s about as good as it got for Grachev. He started the season as a healthy scratch and when he got his chance in the lineup it started on the 4th line. Reports on Grachev were that his play was similar to how it was in his few games as a New York Ranger last season; he was not a liability and did some things well but ultimately was not a difference maker. When Davis Payne was shown the door and Ken Hitchcock was brought in Grachev was given a chance on a scoring line next to Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart. Grachev failed to produce anything and eventually was benched by Hitchcock. An eye injury sidelined him for a bit and then he was sent down to the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Peoria. Grachev’s first extended stint in the NHL produced 17 games with no goals and two assists. An injury to forward Vladimir Sobotka is the only reason for his being recalled for tonight’s game.
As for the Rangers, head scout Gordie Clark did a very Gordie Clark thing and drafted a player much sooner than many projected he would go. That player was Steven Fogarty, a skilled but incredibly raw high schooler from Minnesota. Fogarty is now playing in the BCHL and, in a league with player one or two years older than he, has produced 40 points in 33 games. Independent scout Dan Sallows has watched him this season and is impressed with what he has seen, raving about his offensive abilities both physically and mentally and even comparing him to Jeff Carter. Fogarty is 18 and a very long way from the NHL, but early on it’s clear that his potential is high and one only needs to look at the current Rangers roster to see Gordie Clark’s success with later round draft picks.
We’re not even a year removed from the trade and we’re comparing two very young players. Thus, it would be premature to declare the Rangers victors. However, Evgeny Grachev has done nothing to show he’s a better player than the one the Rangers saw and at 21 years old the clock on his development is beginning to tick. Meanwhile, 18 year old Steve Fogarty has the qualifications necessary for a player who could be a potential top-6 center down the road, and given how thin the Rangers’ prospect pool is at center the addition of a player like him was sorely needed. It remains to be seen if Evgeny Grachev will become an NHL player at all, but it seems unlikely that he ever comes close to being the impact player that a few years ago many thought he could be. Steve Fogarty is many years away from even sniffing the NHL and still has a lot to improve on. But right now the trade seems to be a wise one. Glen Sather did well to move Grachev before his stock fell lower than Enron’s. Gordie Clark and the rest of the scouting team did well to make use of the draft pick and add a quality prospect to the organization.