The Rangers made their first move of the trading season yesterday, shipping centerman Erik Christensen to Minnesota, along with a conditional 2013 seventh-round pick for Casey Wellman.
Considering the only news Christensen has made all season, was his beating out of Sean Avery for the 13th forward spot out of camp, the deal may seem insignificant for the Blueshirts.
Christensen hasn't played a game for the Rangers since mid-December, and following a conditioning stint to the AHL, it seemed unlikely he would crack the lineup any time soon. Especially with the way that rookie Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell have been playing since being called up from the Conneticut Whale earlier this season. Even if there were an injury to one of the Rangers' forwards, head coach John Tortorella still has Wojtek Wolski just waiting patiently for another chance to crack the lineup, as he has been fully recovered from sports hernia surgery for weeks.
The 24-year-old Wellman, who has skated in 14 games with the Wild this season, will most likely be an addition to the Whale.
Like we said, in all likelihood this deal was probably more of a roster-builder for the Whale, as well as a depth move for the Wild, who have been struggling mightly down the middle of late.
However, this could also be the first domino nudged over by Rangers GM Glen Sather, in a ripple effect of trades to come before the trade deadline on Feb. 27.
For the sake of not throwing outlandish rumors that have no ground to stand on, like many hockey blogs out there, I've decided to use a much more scientific method to determine who might be coming to Broadway come Feb. 27.
Maybe it's the amount of Alcatraz I've been watching lately, or maybe it's my obsession with Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes movies, but I'm in the detectivey mood.
EDITOR'S NOTE: No, Dectivey aint a word.
The New York Rangers may be sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings, however, if they don't fix one glaring problem soon, it's going to be a difficult task for them to make a serious run into the playoffs.
Motive: What would induce Glen Sather into making a move prior to the deadline?
New York's power play has gotten so bad, that it's almost at the point where they should decline the man-advantage for better ice position on the ensuing face-off.
Excluding Marian Gaborik's game-winner in overtime over Boston, which came during the final seconds of a 4-on-3 advantage, as of tomorrow, it will have been over a month since the Rangers converted while having the man-advantage in regulation time. That's 28 consecutive failed opportunities for those of you keeping track at home.
This isn't a new problem, either.
The Rangers (26th overall) have been at the bottom of the NHL as for as power play is concerned for all year. Actually, it seems as if they've been in the cellar of power play statistics ever since Brian Leetch was forced out of left town eight years ago.
When Brad Richards was brought into Manhattan this past offseason, the idea was that the Rangers' power play woes would finally be answered. Well, that hasn't worked now, has it?
While Richards is doing several things right off the ice, he hasn't been able to generate the offensive flare that was hoped for when he signed his name on the contract this past summer.
The struggling power play can't be totally forced on Richards, however, as their are four other guys on the ice that aren't putting the puck in the net either.
So we've found our motive: Glen Sather must find someone to help the Rangers' dismal power play.
Proximity: Where should Sather look to start his search for a power play helper?
With the All-Star break behind us, most teams are beginning to find out whether or not they'll be buyers or sellers come the deadline.
We have our usual suspects in the Oilers, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Canadiens, all which seemed to be destined for cellar status by the second week of November. However, we also have several teams that may on that edge. You know, the teams that technically aren't dead just yet, but might as well be, such as: the Lightning, Sabres, Jets, Flames, Ducks, Islanders, Stars, Avalanche and Coyotes.
Now, I doubt Sather will find a trading partner in the East. Not because they're more in direct competition with the Rangers, but, because the East seems to be more wide-open than the West as of now. The Southeast Division is completely up for grabs, with the Capitals just not into it, the Panthers clinging around, and the Lightning starting to get hot just at the right time. In all likelihood, whoever comes in second place in the Southeast, will find themselves on the outside, looking in. It's going to be hard difficult for either of those teams to be a seller if they all keep playing the way that they are.
In contrast, if you were to take the fourth place team--which happens to be Chicago as of now--in the Central Division and insert them into the Southeast, they'd be leading the division by six points!
That means that 50-percent of the Western Conference playoff teams will be via the Central. Add the other two division winners to the mix, and there's six of the eight teams advancing to the playoffs right there.
Unless you win your division in the West, you're going to have an extremely difficult time taking the trip to the second season.
So let's narrow it down to the teams that will most likely be on the outside of the playoff picture in the West come the 27th, saying that the Flames, Stars and Wild are looking to add to their rosters, as they'll be jockeying for the eighth spot.
Suspects: Coyotes, Blue Jackets, Oilers and Ducks.
If Glen Sather can learn anything, it's that history often repeats itself. It seems like centuries ago when the Rangers won the President's Trophy and eventually the Stanley Cup back in 1994. En route to that victory, then GM Neil Smith all but exploded his team's youth at the deadline, shipping away the likes Tony Amonte, Todd Marchant and even Mike Gartner as well as others for pieces that would eventually help win the Stanley Cup. Yes, it worked, but it also crippled the Rangers for years to come.
The Rangers need a rental player that wont cost too much in return; a player who wont be returning next year or hinder the Rangers' cap space.
So, we need a player with an expiring contract, isn't a big cap hit, and wont kill the Rangers' as far as a return is concerned.
That pretty much eliminates the on-going rumors of Bobby Ryan being sent to New York. As it would be a great acquisition to land a young, proven goal scorer entering his prime, the cost (both financially and acquiring) will be far too much for Sather to handle.
The ideal player for the Rangers, would be the ageless wonder himself, Teemu Selanne. However, I highly doubt that Selanne would accept a trade out of Anaheim that didn't involve him returning to Winnipeg, to all but end his storied career.
Other than that, the Ducks have little to offer.
Let's move to Columbus.
Rick Nash and Jeff Carter: See Bobby Ryan.
The Blue Jackets do have a very familiar face that could be enticing to the Rangers: Vinny Prospal.
The seasoned veteran has logged nearly 18-minutes-per-game of ice-time, while skating on the team's second line, and earning first-unit power play minutes. He has shown no signs of the injury which plagued him for the majority of last season, skating in all 52 games for the Jackets this season.
Prospal a playoff-tested veteran who will compliment just about any team's offense, he also has the perfect playoff rental contract, as he's set to be an UFA with a small cap hit.
Not only is Prospal comfortable under the pressures of playing in Madison Square Garden, but, he's also had a good relationship with several current Rangers from both his time spent there and his time with Tampa Bay. Prospal not only played for John Tortorella in New York, but he was also a member of Torts' Tampa teams, while playing with current Rangers Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards.
Prospal: Strong suspect.
The Oilers have a plethora of young talent that many GMs would be drooling at the lip to land. However, that doesn't help Sather. The Rangers not only have plenty of young talent themselves, but they are looking for a veteran presence that will help them in the postseason. Something that Edmonton seriously lacks experience in being a part of.
Other than Ales Hemsky, who will most likely be moved out of Edmonton come deadline day, the only other name that the Rangers could be interested in is Ryan Smyth.
Smyth makes an interesting option, as the NY Post's Larry Brooks suggests. However, despite the relationship between Sather and Smyth, I highly doubt that Captain Canada will sacrifice ending his career as an Oiler for a second time, accepting a trade to New York. Again.
Hemsky, another good option for the Blueshirts, will be too much of a return for Sather to handle, however. Although he is an UFA come season's end, the 28-year-old will most likely cost a lot, as several other teams will be inquiring about his services.
That leaves us with the Coyotes.
Taking a look at the Coyotes' impending UFAs, one name really jumps out at me: Ray Whitney.
Whitney, much like Prospal, is the ideal rental player for teams looking to bolster their postseason roster. At the spritely young age of 39, Whitney is a battle-tested playoff veteran. Before you say that he's too old to make a significant impact on the Rangers' roster, take a look at this:
If Whitney were to join the Rangers today, he would be leading the Rangers in points (43) and would be behind only Gaborik and Ryan Callahan in power play goals with five. He plays on the Coyotes' top power play unit, and would be only seconds behind as the leader for time-on-ice with the man-advantage.
Not to mention, that he'd be tied for second on the team with Derek Stepan for forwards in the plus/minus category, with a +14.
Whitney also has what it takes to be a part of a strong playoff run, as he scored 15 points in 24 games, for the Hurricanes during their Stanley Cup championship season.
Couple in Whitney's affordable cap hit (just over $1 million, according to CapGeek), with his manageable return price, and the Rangers might have themselves a winner.
Oh, let's not forget that Sather and Coyotes GM Don Maloney love making deals with each other.
So there we have it, we've found our prime suspect. Ray Whitney, welcome to Alcat....New York!
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