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Trade deadline implications: The Rangers are going all-in

Bobby Bevilacqua

eric staal full body profile 2-29

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

  • The Rangers made one move at the trade deadline, and it was a big one, acquiring Eric Staal from the Hurricanes for two second round picks and Aleksi Saarela. In exchange, they acquired a versatile forward who still has quality years left in him, all without giving up a roster spot.
  • That was the key for the Rangers; they didn’t surrender a first round draft pick or a roster player. So they were able to add Staal, but they were able to keep guys like Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, as well as important depth players like Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg. They plucked Staal from Carolina and added him to a roster that’s already pretty good.
  • Some people were confused as to why Gorton didn’t acquire a bottom six PK specialist or some defensive help. When Rick Nash returns, they’ll have their best penalty killer back on the ice, so that’ll help. And if they got a defenseman, where would he go? None of the current six players would be taken out of the lineup, and the new guy would join McIlrath in the press box. It just wasn’t worth it.

  • Speaking of Nash, he’s supposedly close to returning to the ice and doing lower body workouts. The Rangers have done a fantastic job without him, so getting Nash back will make them that much better. Rick Nash leads all Rangers with 149 shots on goal, and he’s missed 18 games. Getting him back will be fantastic.
  • And when Nash comes back, this team has some serious depth. Of course, Alain Vigneault could continue his love affair with Tanner Glass and refuse to take him out of the lineup. But if not, then this could be a really strong lineup from top to bottom. This is what the forward lines could look like
    •  Eric Staal-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash                                                                                        JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello                                                                          Chris Kreider-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg                                                                        Oscar Lindberg-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast
  • The biggest improvement there may be on the fourth line. No Glass, Fast’s strong two way game back in a bottom six role. Nash and Staal get to play again following their successful partnership for Team Canada. And Chris Kreider adds more depth and scoring to the third line, and there’s room for adjustments in the lineup too.
  • Alain Vigneault noticed it after two periods; Staal may not be best suited at center. At least not on this team. The Rangers already have Brassard and Stepan in their prime, and Staal should realistically be in the top six. He’s an excellent possession player, a playmaker, and he knows how to use his size to hold onto the puck and make plays. That type of game could work well with Nash, and Staal can still tag-in and take some faceoffs.
  • Another reason why Staal should stay on the wing is because Kevin Hayes has earned that third line center role. People can point to the fact that “he’s a natural winger” all they want, but he’s been really underwhelming on the wing, which is a spot the Rangers have a big hole with Nash out. Hayes is so much more comfortable down the middle, he’s a better playmaker at center, and he produces more points down the middle too. Things could change when Nash comes back, but Hayes is better suited as a center and Staal has more value on the wing.
  • Jeff Gorton also decided to hold onto Keith Yandle and the team’s other assets, meaning that the Rangers are all-in and they’re gearing up for a Stanley Cup run. There’s reason to be confident and expect to do well, and it’s because this is a pretty good group. The Capitals are still the team to beat in the East, but the Rangers should be pretty confident going up against anyone else. They’ve shown they can beat the best teams, and when everyone is healthy, it’s a deep and dangerous roster.
  • I also think that the defense is fine. People criticize Dan Girardi a lot (myself included), but he had a fantastic month of February, and he’s been an effective defenseman alongside Ryan McDonagh. Marc Staal has really been the weak spot, but as long as he isn’t catastrophically bad, this team is fine on the blueline. For now.
  • While Gorton didn’t really give up a ton of assets to get EStaal, there is some concern about “mortgaging the future” (I wrote an article on that HERE). But what Rick Carpiniello said put it in perspective; it’s better that the Rangers go down swinging rather than looking. Argue all you want, but the Rangers’ cup window won’t last forever. Eventually Henrik Lundqvist (Happy 34th birthday Hank!) won’t be elite, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will be shells of their former selves, and some of the current core players will be priced out of the Rangers’ range. So the best time to win is right now. Especially with the aging players and expiring contracts.
  • And especially when you have one of the best goalies to ever play the game. In December, there was legitimate concern from some people about whether or not Hank had started to hit his decline. But lately he’s picked his play up and stolen plenty of games away for the Rangers. But it’s really a guessing game as to how long he can play at his current level; some people say for another four or five years, others say he will decline soon. I personally think he’ll be good for a few more years, but I’m not quite sure that I’m ready to bank on that for the team’s cup hopes.
  • Overall, this was a solid trade deadline where the Rangers added a top-six player, kept all of their young and effective roster players and are getting geared up for another Cup run. Get ready for another exciting postseason, because the Rangers are ready to compete.
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Posted on March 2, 2016, in In the Crease, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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