The NHL’s trading deadline is, among other things, a time where teams out of the playoff picture sell off assets and look towards the future while teams looking to reach and make a splash in the playoffs try to bolster their roster. And the New York Rangers are (were) in as good of a position as any team in the NHL to improve the roster and put themselves in a position to contend for the Stanley Cup.
And thus, the Rangers were expected by everybody – fans and media alike – to be involved in trading deadline action and make a notable move or two. Rick Nash was the headlining name of course, and other legitimate trade candidates were linked to the Rangers the past month. But alas, enforcer John Scott was the only acquisition Glen Sather made. And I think the Rangers missed a great opportunity to make a stronger case for going deep in the playoffs.
Though there are other factors of course, there are a few main factors that every general manager must consider when contemplating making a splash on the trade market. They are:
Salary Cap Room: The Rangers had some wiggle room going into February, and the departures of Erik Christensen and especially Wojtek Wolski made the acquisition of virtually any player conceivable for the New York Rangers. Of course, long term salary cap implications need to be accounted for, but the Rangers no longer are handcuffed by large, unjust contracts and Chris Drury’s buyout is eliminated from the cap after next season. The salary cap is something that always needs to be monitored and the Rangers are already on the hook for some big contracts but salary cap room was not a deal-breaker.
Assets To Trade: Quite simply, a team can’t bring in anybody if it doesn’t have anything to give in return. Furthermore, you need enough in your inventory to make potential losses bearable. The Rangers have not only the assets required to make a move but have all of their major draft picks and more than enough prospect depth to mitigate the loss of some prospects/draft picks. The NHL team’s youth also helps this, as the Rangers don’t need to be so dependent on their prospect pool with young players such as Del Zotto, McDonagh, Staal, Callahan, Stepan, etc. already at the NHL level.
Cup Contention: This one is pretty black and white. There’s little sense in sending away a ton of assets for an impact player if you’re not a likely threat in the playoffs. The Rangers are first in the Eastern Conference and their closest threat for that position is the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, who are 9 whole points behind the Rangers. The Rangers have to be considered as likely as just about anybody for a deep playoff run.
Of course there are other things the team has to take into account, such as chemistry, the likelihood of a certain player to succeed in New York, etc. But the current situation was SCREAMING for some notable additions. For the first time since 1997 the Rangers are a Stanley Cup contender. We had plenty salary cap room to make a move (or two). And we not only have a deep prospect pool and enough draft picks to make moves but we have more than enough young talent in the organization to make up for any loss of prospects/picks.
Now, this is not to be confused with me having any anger towards Glen Sather and the New York Rangers. No doubt the team did its best to make some additions that made sense, but the trade market just wasn’t there. While we don’t know for sure what kinds of potential deals were out there, other trades as well as reports from the media suggest that it was a sellers market and it would not make sense for Sather to overpay for anybody. This is not a critique on decision making but rather just the observation that the Rangers were in as good of a position as they’ve been in over a decade to make some moves to help towards the goal of winning a Stanley Cup. And the fact that it just didn’t work out is incredibly unfortunate.