‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The NHL trade deadline isn’t always about landing the big fish. There’s a strong chance that Rick Nash will remain in Columbus past Monday at 3 p.m. if Blue Jackets’ General Manager Scott Howson isn’t blown away by offers for the 27-year-old.
As I watched the Pittsburgh Penguins dominate the Rangers on Tuesday, I came to the conclusion that the Blueshirts require an infusion of strength and physicality into their lineup.
The Penguins spent far too much time on the puck and the Rangers weren’t doing a good enough job of disrupting Pittsburgh’s offensive flow. Once Sidney Crosby returns to the Penguins’ lineup, it will be even harder to match Pittsburgh’s firepower.
Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella often describes his team’s best attributes as their ability to battle unrelentingly and be difficult for opponents to play against. That clearly wasn’t the case on Tuesday as the Penguins didn’t have to break much of a sweat to defeat the Rangers 2-0 at the Consol Energy Center.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was asked Wednesday evening during his appearance on NHL Live which player he could most likely see being moved before the conclusion of Monday’s trade deadline. Without hesitation, he replied that Dallas Stars’ enforcer Steve Ott will find a new address.
Ott is exactly the kind of player who can help solidify the Rangers and provide the amount of grit needed to throw a team like the Penguins off their game. His agitating style gets under the skin of opponents and he ranks 5th in the entire NHL with 201 hits. Ott is also an excellent face-off man with a percentage near 57% and has collected a respectable 27 points in 54 games including 4 powerplay goals.
A second round pick and a mid-level prospect should be enough to sway Stars’ GM Joe Nieuwendyk to part with Ott.
While the Stars aren’t out of the playoff hunt, Nieuwendyk appears to be building his team toward the long term. He’s looking for draft picks and young players he can use to surround Dallas’ core of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Alex Goligoski who are all entering their prime years.
At the moment, Ruslan Fedotenko is waiting for the green light to return to the Blueshirts’ lineup. He’s been skating on his own but is yet to practice with his teammates. Neither Fedotenko or the Rangers will admit that he suffered a concussion but the injury was caused when Dominic Moore checked Fedotenko and his own stick inadvertently slammed into his face.
If Fedotenko is sidelined for an extended amount of time, the Rangers will need a player who can readily step into his role. They’ve been making due with defenseman Stu Bickel as a makeshift forward but could use another experienced forward even after Fedotenko returns.
John Mitchell’s production has fallen off of late. He has only registered 1 point in his last 11 games. Ott would be an immediate upgrade over Mitchell and is capable of playing at center or left wing. He’s also familiar with Brad Richards from their time in Dallas.
It’s easy to say that adding a sure-fire scorer should be priority number one for Rangers’ GM Glen Sather but outside of Nash and Jeff Carter, there aren’t a whole lot of offensively-gifted players on the trade block. If Sather is unsure whether to take on Nash’s contractual obligations through 2018, there’s no way he would ever consider swallowing Carter’s albatross deal that runs until the summer of 2022.
Ott’s contract is affordable enough to fit into the Rangers’ current salary cap situation. He is due to earn $3.2 million dollars a year through the 2013-14 season with a cap hit of $2.95M per season. If the Rangers deem Ott to be too costly, they could also consider grinder Travis Moen of the Montreal Canadiens who is in the final year of his contract and only making $1.5M.
The Rangers do not require a facelift but instead an extra veteran presence that would strengthen their chances of making a deep playoff run. Acquiring a player of Ott or Moen’s ilk would help fill out the Blueshirts’ depth and give them more of an intimidation factor.
Rangers fans, who are you hoping to see Sather acquire before the trade deadline? Would Ott make a worthy addition or should the Rangers set their sights on gifted scorer? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.