The NHL Trade Deadline is less than 72-hours away and the New York Rangers, who play one more game before the 3:00PM deadline Monday, are certainly geared to make a move. The hot name for weeks now has been Rick Nash to help a struggling offense become fortified.
However, it may be the defense corps that needs a shot in the arm and a more glaring need to address than a scorer.
Read on after the jump to find out why.
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All season, the Rangers have gotten amazing contributions from their defenseman despite a rash of injuries.
Dan Girardi has had a Norris-trophy like season, while not putting the offensive numbers, the ice-time, blocked shots; hits etc. have shown Girardi assuming a leadership role on the backline.
Ryan McDonagh excelled in the absence of Marc Staal, developing into the team’s 2nd best defenseman, routinely shutting down the opposition’s best weapons while sprinkling in offense. In short, he’s been a revelation to a young defense corps.
Michael Del Zotto has returned to form, harnessing his lost offensive game while assuming a top-four defense position with an improved defensive acumen. However, over the past few games, we’ve seen that Del Zotto’s decision making is still flawed at times, and asks for quite more. The swagger that Del Zotto needs to be effective has not left and must not: it’s the key for him.
After missing nearly half a season, Marc Staal returned from his concussion issues and has gradually (and still is) regained his form. Truthfully, for the Rangers, it couldn’t have come at a better time
The Rangers are still without Michael Sauer due to a concussion suffered on Dec 5, and the reality is the team may be without him the rest of the season as he’s not been skating after a set-back suffered three weeks ago. It looks as if the club that has relied on a makeshift defense all year will continue to unless they can add another defenseman by Monday.
Players like Anton Stralman, Steve Eminger, and Stu Bickel, at times, have played well beyond their expectations to contribute to a Rangers’ team 2nd in the NHL in goal against (117). But, as evidenced by the last several games and the coach’s sentiment, the cracks appear to be growing on the back end.
For most of the season, John Tortorella has neglected to use his third defense pair in the 3rd period, relying on his horses. In the Penguins game earlier this week, Torts benched both Stralman and Eminger in the third for poor play.
It’s a tactic a coach can get away with in the regular season. But, in the postseason, you need all players available.
This from Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period:
NHL source – ‘Rangers Stralman not going to get it done on 2nd D pair likewise with Bickel as #6 but they down 2-1, here comes Nash!’
— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) February 25, 2012
While Rick Nash may help the offense, if the Rangers bottom defense players begin to crumble under the pressure of being the top seed in the East and exposed for what they really are, all the goals in the world won’t help a team that can’t defend suddenly.
Some defenseman to target before Monday could be Colorado’s Shane O’Brien, Minnesota’s Greg Zanon, and Calgary’s Scott Hannan. All have expiring contracts with minimal cap-hits and fit the mold of what the Rangers want their defense to do: bring experience, play a physical brand of hockey, and block shots.
The old adage is that you can never have enough defenseman in the NHL. While the Rangers are loaded with top-four defensive depth for years to come (Girardi is the elder statesman at 27), its their bottom pair that needs improvement if a Stanley Cup run is in the cards this season.