The New York Rangers have important decisions to make with the trade deadline approaching. They have a massive amount of cap space to work with, which teams in their position in the standings don’t often have.
Chris Drury has the opportunity to make a major splash if he pleases. Ranger fans have a plethora of different opinions when the discussion of the trade deadline is raised. That is because the team has so many various options.
With the long break from Ranger hockey, it would be interesting to evaluate some of the major deadline moves of the past, and judge whether or not putting all of your chips in is the best way to go.
Since the beginning of the salary cap era, it has been extremely rare for players of elite caliber to be traded at all, let alone during the regular season. The only elite players we have seen traded during the season recently have been Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall and Mark Stone.
The construction of trades also looked much different. Nowadays, draft picks are a much hotter commodity, and less proven, roster players are necessary to get a trade completed. It may be more beneficial to look at splashes at the deadline from the past decade to assess the Rangers situation more effectively.
While this is true, there are still some massive trade deadline deals that from long ago that we should go over. One of the most famous midseason acquisitions was the Islanders trading for Butch Goring. The Islanders gave the Los Angeles Kings two long-time Islanders in Billy Harris and and Dave Lewis in exchange for Goring. After eight years on the Island, Harris played one additional season in L.A. before going into a pretty rapid decline. Lewis meanwhile was a solid acquisition for the Kings on their blue line.
This was a decent amount to give up, but there’s no question it paid off. Goring was the final piece to the Islanders’championship puzzle. After acquiring him, the Islanders went on to win the Stanley Cup four straight years and he won the Conn Smythe in 1981.
There was another massive trade at the deadline in 1991. The Hartford Whalers traded Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson to the Penguins for John Cullen and Zarley Zalapski. Samuelsson and Francis (Francis especially) were vital in helping Pittsburgh lift the Cup that season and the next.
That’s the kind of trade we don’t see anymore. John Cullen had 94 points in 65 games that season for the Penguins. He posted 110 the season prior. Today, you would never see a trade at the deadline with players of that caliber going in each direction.
There are other major deals from this era worth noting: Brett Hull for Rob Ramage, Keith Tkachuk to the Blues, Chris Chelios to the Red Wings.
Now, let’s look at recent significant deadline swings and how they worked out for the team on the buying side. The Rangers were involved in a few big deadline deals.
Jeff Carter to the Kings
In 2012, the Kings sent Jack Johnson and their 2013 first round pick to the Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter. Jack Johnson put together six solid years for the Jackets, while the first round pick resulted in Marko Dano. This was an all in gamble from L.A., as Johnson was a successful young defenseman at the time. The first round pick was also a large sweetener.
This move paid off, as the Kings won the Stanley Cup against the Devils that year. Carter solidified the Kings up the middle and tied for team lead in playoff goals with eight. They even won again in 2014 (as we know), and Carter was an even larger contributor posting almost a point per game that postseason.
Verdict: The trade was worth it.
Jarome Iginla to the Penguins
In 2013, the Penguins made noise by acquiring veteran Jarome Iginla who was on an expiring deal. The Penguins sent prospects Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first round pick to the Flames. All three of those assets ended being nothing for Calgary.
Iginla had 11 points in 13 regular season games in Pittsburgh. He also had 12 points in 15 games during the postseason. He helped the Penguins reach the Eastern Conference Final where they were swept by the Bruins. He then joined Boston on a one-year deal that summer.
Verdict: They didn’t win it all, but the prospects turned out to be nothing. With his contributions to their run, the Penguins likely make that move again.
Marian Gaborik to the Kings
This is one that caused a lot of pain for Rangers fans. At the 2014 deadline, the Kings went all in again acquiring ec-Ranger Marian Gaborik from the Blue Jackets. All they had to cough up was Matt Frattin and two mid round draft picks for the 31-year-old who had seen a steep decline in his scoring. Gaborik was a staple for L.A. that postseason. He scored 14 goals and had 22 points in 26 games including two late goals against the Rangers that led to overtime wins for the Kings.
Frattin hardly played in the NHL, while the picks weren’t notable.
Verdict: Worth it.
St. Louis-Callahan Swap
This was quite the move. In a trade of team captains, the Rangers traded Ryan Callahan, while the Lightning sent back their heart and soul, Martin St. Louis. The Rangers also threw in a first round pick, and a second that had multiple conditions.
This was a risky move for the Rangers to make midway through the season. St Louis was still a point per game player at that point and was better than Callahan. But trading your captain away can leave leave fans angry if it doesn’t work out. St Louis was underwhelming for the remainder of the regular season, but was a pivotal piece in their run to the Final that season with 15 points and some important goals.
The Lightning ended up trading both of the draft picks to the Islanders and the Isles ended up drafting Josh Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier. Ultimately, the Lightning ended up drafting Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Stephens.
Looking back, would the Rangers have gotten as far with Callahan in 2014? We now that St. Louis played a key role in getting to the Final. Ultimately, you could say the Lightning won the trade, as they defeated the Rangers the following year in the playoffs.
Verdict: The Rangers come up short, but they likely don’t regret the move.
Kevin Shattenkirk to the Caps
At the 2017 deadline, the Capitals traded for Kevin Shattenkirk. They gave away a package to St. Louis of Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a first round pick and a conditional second round pick.
He was great to finish the regular season, but mediocre in the postseason as the Capitals lost to the Penguins in the second round. Shattenkirk was a pure rental and became a Ranger that summer.
Looking back at the return, Sanford totaled 71 points in a Blues uniform and contributed to the 2019 Cup win. The first round pick was also used to acquire Brayden Schenn. The Blues got a solid return in this deadline deal.
Verdict: Given that Shattenkirk was not retained and the Capitals couldn’t get over the hump, this trade was unsuccessful.
Other notable deadline deals are: J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh to the Lightning, Mark Stone to Vegas, Eric Staal to the Rangers and Ryan Miller to the Blues. These trades had mixed results, ending up either working out for the buyer, or not hurting them too much because of the assets given up failed to develop.
If the Rangers are to make a trade for Jakob Chychrun, Joe Pavelski, Claude Giroux, Tomas Hertl or Reilly Smith, they will be on a similar level with some of these examples.
What these trades show is that making these big moves can prove to be worth it. Specifically, contending teams shouldn’t be scared to give up draft picks, as many of them don’t hit. After pick 20, draft picks are basically a lottery ticket. Young and unproven prospects are always good until they’re not.
This doesn’t mean that Drury shouldn’t be careful to not overpay/make a mistake. But you often need to give to get. The team is in a unique position with tons of cap room and a deep prospect pool, especially at a position with a log jam at the NHL level.
This is not to say that this is the Rangers only chance. They should be a premier team for many years after this one. However, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin won’t get any younger. Cap space for this team will continue to decrease. Ryan Strome is on an expiring deal. Why not go all in on a rental player or two?
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