By Steve Silverman
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New York, NY (WFAN) – The Rangers are still looking for firepower as the offseason gets underway in earnest.
They did not address that need with their first-round selection in the 2012 NHL draft.
But then again, general manager Glen Sather was not expecting any miracle with the 28th pick in the first round.
However, it appears the Rangers may have selected a significant offensive threat with the selection of 19-year-old Brady Skjei (pronounced SHAY) in the first round.
Skjei is a 6-2, 196 pound defenseman who shoots from the left side and is said to have a cannon from the point. But if Skjei is going to make it up to the big club at any point in the next two seasons, it will likely be the result of his outstanding skating.
The Lakeville, Minnesota native is the nephew of NHL skating coach Barry Karn, and that’s who taught him to skate. He’s got excellent speed and the kind of balance that all defenseman need when they are fighting for the puck in the corner, are forced to take a hit and then retain possession of the puck.
But the Rangers were never in a position in the first round to add a game-changing player like the Edmonton Oilers did by drafting Nail Yakupov with the first pick in the draft. Yakupov is an explosive skater with brilliant hands who is expected to join young stars like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins right away. It’s clearly just a matter of time before this young team with its group of burgeoning stars becomes a major force in the NHL.
The Rangers are already at that level. They are a powerful team that finished first in the Eastern Conference during the regular season before getting shut down by the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That series illuminated what Sather and head coach John Tortorella already knew – the Rangers are lacking in offensive firepower. They just didn’t have enough threatening players who could join Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik when it came to scoring key goals.
The first day of the draft would have been the ideal time to bring in some more goal-scoring talent. Not by drafting a teenager, but by making a trade with a willing dance partner.
The ideal goal scorer for the Rangers is probably Columbus forward Rick Nash, but that’s not exactly news. Nash has been on the trading front since before the trade deadline during the regular season, but Columbus general manager Scott Howson is still trying to hold up any of the suitors that are interested in Nash.
At this point, as badly as the Rangers need a goal scorer, it’s not worth gutting their roster. Trading a current forward, a defenseman and a minor leaguer might be a reasonable way to go to acquire Nash, but Howson isn’t interested in playing fairly. He wants the young stars on the Rangers roster and he’s not listening to anything else.
The other immediate trade possibility is Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks. The Cherry Hill, New Jersey native has scored 30 or more goals in four consecutive seasons and that’s exactly the kind of production the Rangers need. He’s got a solid shot but he can also operate in the tight quarters in front of the net. He would bring a major upgrade in talent and it seems like Anaheim may be more reasonable in its demands than Columbus has been.
Of course, Sather is not one to take a bad deal. He will almost certainly be active in the free-agent market. Signing Zach Parise is a longshot at best and the odds appear to be getting worse. Not only has Parise publicly stated that he’s not interested in playing for the Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly preparing to make Parise a sizable offer.
That move would make sense for them after trading Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes at the start of the draft.
Parise is not the only free-agent forward to consider. He is the best available, but Shane Doan of Phoenix, Alex Semin of Washington, P.A. Parenteau of the Islanders, Ray Whitney of Phoenix and a certain ex-Ranger by the name of Jaromir Jagr could all help.
Semin may be the most interesting of the group. He is not a Tortorella kind of player because he has never been known for his two-way game. However, if Tortorella could get him to buy in just a bit to the system and the coach would give him just a little bit of an opportunity to freelance in the offensive zone, he could blossom in New York.
These are just suggestions. However, Sather and Tortorella know better than anyone else that more offense is needed if the Rangers are going to get over the top.