Since the New York Rangers haven’t won the Stanley Cup recently, their trade deadline deals are regarded as failures, but are they?
In our last story, we looked at some off-season trades by the New York Rangers, with the full benefit of hindsight. Since trades often cannot be judged for years, we looked at any deals made in the five years between June 2012 and June 2017.
For this story, we will revisit the trade deadline deals made by the Rangers while they were Stanley Cup contenders earlier this decade. We’ll reevaluate the deadline deals made from 2012 to 2017. Now that enough time has passed, we won’t just look at the players traded, but also the draft picks that were swapped.
2012 – Adding an enforcer
The 2011-12 Rangers finished in first place in the Atlantic Division under coach John Tortorella. They were a well-balanced team with a stud scorer in Marian Gaborik, surrounded by a useful set of forwards and a shot blocking squad of blueliners. It was a Vezina Trophy year for Henrik Lundqvist and the team was poised to go far in the playoffs.The Rangers made one move at the deadline, On February 27 sending a fifth round draft pick to Chicago in exhange for defenseman/forward John Scott. Yes, that John Scott.
Scott achieved hockey fame when he was voted to the 2016 Western Conference All-Star team despite scoring only one point in 11 games and was subsequently traded to Montreal and resided in the minor leagues. He still played, was named captain and scored two goals, winning the MVP award. They are allegedly making a movie about this.
For some reason, the Blueshirts felt that they needed another tough guy on their roster to supplement Stu Bickel and Brandon Prust. Scott ended up playing six games in the regular season and didn’t get into a single playoff game (they played 20).As for the draft pick, the Hawks picked defenseman Travis Brown, last seen playing in Denmark.
Could the Blueshirts have used that pick? Players taken in the draft after Brown at #149 include some solid NHL players including Alex Kerfoot (#150), Colin Miller (#151), Connor Brown (#156), Vinnie Hinostroza (#169) and Matt Benning (#175).Take it back? Considering Scott’s minimal impact, even a fifth round pick would have been more valuable.
2013: A blockbuster with a Cup Finals impact
The Rangers made two deals at the deadline in 2013, pushed back to April 3 due to the lockout that season. The second one was a blockbuster that had implications for the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014.
It was clear as the 2012-13 season wore on that John Tortorella had no use for Marian Gaborik. The team had traded for Rick Nash in the off-season and they had no need for two stud scorers. Tortorella had been very critical of Gaborik in the 2012 playoffs, despite that the winger was playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder.
It didn’t help that Gaborik struggled in the lockout-shortened season, scoring only nine goals in 35 games. When the Blue Jackets showed an interest in the star winger, it also presented the Rangers with an opportunity to get back some of the depth they gave up in the Nash deal.
As deadline deals go, this was a pretty good one for the Rangers, though it took a year to have an impact. The Ranger got three useful players who were big parts of their run to the Finals in 2014. Derick Brassard centered a potent line with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot. John Moore was a third pair defenseman. Derek Dorsett was a high energy winger on the fourth line who led the team in penalty minutes.
As for the Blue Jackets, both Delisle and Parlett never saw NHL action. In an injury plagued season, Gaborik played in 22 games, scoring six goals before he was swapped to the Los Angeles Kings at the deadline in 2014.
That’s where the deal came back to bite the Rangers in the butt. In the Stanley Cup Finals, Gaborik killed his old team, scoring third period tying goals in Games Two and Five, finishing the series with three points. The players he was traded for notched three assists.
Take the deal back? Nope, it was a solid transaction, but Gaborik’s success against them in the Finals could not be predicted and leaves a bad taste.
2013: Waylaid by injuries
When the Rangers landed winger Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks in their other deadline deal on April 2, 2013, most observers were enthusiastic. The word was that Clowe was a veteran physical winger who would be a valuable addition for the playoffs. When he scored two goals and added an assist in his Rangers debut, it looked like the Blueshirts had pulled off a good one.
Clowe didn’t live up to his advance billing mostly because he was hampered by injuries in his brief tenure on Broadway. He did score three goals and totaled eight points in 12 games, but those injuries limited him to only two of the 12 playoffs games for the the Blueshirts that spring.
The draft picks never amounted to much for the Sharks, though they did flip the second rounder for Raffi Torres. It’s the fact that the Rangers didn’t have the draft picks that hurts. Players they could have drafted include Brett Pesce, Jake Guentzel, Tyler Bertuzzi and Mattias Janmark to name a few.
This is one deal that the Blueshirts would definitely take back.
2014: The Cup Finals year
2014 features one of the biggest deadline deals in hockey history as Glen Sather rolled the dice and went all out to win the Stanley Cup. On March 5, 2014, the Rangers traded for Martin St. Louis in a trade of team captains.
There were all kinds of conditions attached to the draft picks, but the Rangers ended up giving up two first rounders and Ryan Callahan for St. Louis and a second round pick.
The bottom line on the deal was the Rangers had no intention of paying Callahan what he would have wanted as a UFA after the season. St. Louis was also the spiritual leader of the team and one huge reason the team made it to the Finals.
The irony for the Lightning is they flipped both of the first rounders to the Islanders in exchange for more picks. None of those picks have panned out while the Islanders selected Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang. Callahan played until this season when he was forced to stop playing hockey due a chronic back issue.
St. Louis saw a precipitous drop in his output, going from a point-a-game player in 2011-12 to a 52 point season in 2014-15 that followed with his retirement.
The trade was a big reason why the Rangers didn’t have a first round draft picks for four years from 2013-2016. And that is a reason why the team had to into full rebuild mode in 2018-19.
The question is whether that thrilling ride to the Stanley Cup Finals was worth it. In this case, with the benefit of hindsight, absolutely yes.
The Rangers made one more small deal in 2014, acquiring depth defenseman Raphael Diaz from Vancouver for a fifth round draft pick. He was a serviceable spare part in the playoffs, getting into four games.
2015: The finishing touch on a great team
The 2014-15 New York Rangers were the Presidents’ Trophy winning team with the best record in hockey. With free agent signee Dan Boyle a disappointment, the Rangers braintrust believed that they were one player away from the Cup. They needed a puck moving, offensive blueliner and Keith Yandle fit that bill perfectly. They swung for the fences and got him at the deadline on March 1, 2015.
This was a classic “mortgage the future” deadline deal as they gave up one of their brightest young prospects in Anthony Duclair along with two high draft picks. The good news for the Blueshirts was that Yandle was signed through the next season, so he wasn’t a pure rental.
This is another deal that in hindsight looks bad because of the draft picks they lost. Duclair didn’t establish himself in the NHL until this season with Ottawa, his fourth team. The draft picks never amounted to anything for Arizona. Meanwhile, Yandle played one more season in New York before signing as a free agent with Florida. In an interesting note, the fourth round pick the Rangers got from Arizona was turned into Finnish defense prospect Tarmo Reuanen.
So, keep it or take it back? Yandle did everything he was supposed to, leading the team in assists in 2015-16. While Arizona didn’t benefit from the draft picks, the question has to be what would today’s Rangers look like if they had those first and second round picks? In this case, this might be a deal they’d like back.
2015: A depth forward
While the Keith Yandle deal stole the headlines, the Rangers made another trade on March 1.
When the Rangers traded for spare center James Sheppard, it hardly made ripple. Sheppard still got into 13 playoff games that spring. A free agent after the season, Sheppard has played in Europe ever since. With the fourth round pick, the Sharks selected center Noah Gregor.
It took a few years, but Gregor finally made it to the NHL this season and showed some promise. As a deadline deal the Rangers would probably like this one back though looking at the 2016 draft, there have been few late round gems from that draft year.
2016: A family affair
The 2015-16 Rangers were one year removed from the Presidents Trophy had had come within a game of another trip to the Finals. Poised to make hay in the postseason, the Rangers went out and traded for the best rental player available, Eric Staal.
If you want to define a deadline deal fiasco, this would be the one. After 12 years in Raleigh, Staal couldn’t get acclimated to his new team even with his brother as his teammate. Staal never really fit in and scored just three goals and six points in 20 games and was scoreless in five playoff games.
Carolina traded the 2016 second rounder along with another pick for Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell. With the second round pick In 2017 they grabbed defenseman Luke Martin who is not expected to sign with the Hurricanes. Saarela was a highly regarded Finnish foward, but he has yet to find success after trades to Chicago and Florida.
So, despite the fact that Staal was a complete bust in New York, the Hurricanes didn’t end up with a great haul either. Considering the success that Staal has had with the Wild since his brief stint in New York, it’s hard to second guess this trade. Staal’s inability to be comfortable as a Ranger was completely unexpected from a 12-year veteran.
2017: Still a Ranger
The last deadline deal made by the Rangers when they were a serious playoff contender was on February 28, 2017 when they acquired Brendan Smith from the Detroit Red Wings.
Brendan Smith was brought into bolster the Rangers blueline and he did precisely that. He formed a good tandem with Brady Skjei and his work was notable in the playoffs when the Blueshirts lost in the second round to Ottawa. It was so noticeable, the Rangers gave Smith a four-year $17.4 million contract.
After signing, Smith reported to training camp out of shape and it has taken him two seasons to rebuild his reputation though his cap hit is still an issue.
The Rangers didn’t have a lot to give up and they surrendered two of their remaining draft picks. The 2018 second rounder pick for the Wings, Jonatan Berggren, is still a prospect. His 2019-20 season was cut short when he had shoulder surgery in Sweden, but he is expected in the Motor City next season.
Would the Rangers take this deal back? In a heartbeat. Although Smith made solid contributions in a losing cause in 2016, it’s the contract that he signed that has come back to haunt the Blueshirts.
The nature of deadline deals
The nature of deadline deals is they are deemed to be failures if the team doesn’t win the Stanley Cup. That’s why the boatload of deals the Rangers made in 1994 are universally applauded although statistically the Rangers gave away their future. Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau were key pieces of the championship team. but they combined for only 210 games, 43 goals, 38 assists and 81 points in the regular season as Rangers.
The Rangers traded Tony Amonte, Mike Gartner and Todd Marchant for that foursome and the three players they gave up combined for 2,406 games, 612 goals, 776 assists and 1,388 points after they left New York.
That would be the definition of trade deadline debacles except for one reason. The 1994 Stanley Cup. And for that reason, despite mortgaging the future, you have to give the Rangers credit for trying those years from 2012 to 2017.