By Neil Keefe
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And Brian Monzo
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The NHL trade deadline is almost here and with the Rangers treading water, the Devils never losing and the Islanders trying to make a late run of their own, hockey is meaningful for all the metro teams (even if the Rangers are the only team that’s actually in the postseason right now).
With plenty of moves already having taken place and more moves expected between now and February 28, Brian Monzo joined me for a running dialogue about the trade deadline and its impact on the Rangers, Devils and Islanders.
Keefe: After reading your thoughts on Tuesday and seeing that picture of Glen Sather on the phone with a cigar hanging out of his mouth, it made me think about two things: 1.) “Who, if anyone, was on the other end of that phone call with Sather?” and 2.) “Wow, it’s trade deadline time again, and Glen Sather gets to go through another deadline as the general manager and president of the Rangers.”
It’s 2011 and Glen Sather is still making decisions for the Rangers at the deadline, but I guess we really shouldn’t be shocked since I don’t think there is anything he can or can’t do that will cause him to lose his job at this point in his tenure. But it still sort of amazes and also puzzles me that it’s the end of February again and there is Sather calling the shots at deadline time for the Blueshirts. So, I decided to go back and look at some stuff I wrote about Sather on WFAN.com at the deadline last year.
From March 3, 2010…
“In all likelihood, Sather will stand pat at the deadline, and I’m not sure that isn’t the right move. I’m also not sure it is. I’m not really sure what to make of the Rangers’ situation or what to expect of them over the next six weeks. I’m not sure that there is a move that can be made at this point that will take the Rangers to the next level and get them through March and April and beyond.”
“If Sather has been able to maintain his position with the Rangers to this point, it’s safe to say that there isn’t a trade he can make or pass up that will cost him his job. There isn’t a level of success the Rangers need to achieve or a playoff round they need to reach for him to remain general manager.”
It’s hard to believe that I wrote that almost a year ago and not today since the Rangers are virtually the same team in the same situation.
The Rangers have the same problem they had a year ago, and the year before that: scoring goals. And now that Marian Gaborik – the one guy who should be trusted to score consistently but can’t – is out with a concussion indefinitely, goals are going to have to come in unusual ways like the way Derek Stepan scored against the Flyers on Sunday.
So let’s start with the scoring, I like your wishful thinking that Brad Richards might be made available by Dallas and that the Rangers could be in on him. What are the realistic odds of this happening? Are we talking Lloyd Christmas level “like one out of 100” or Mary Swanson level, “like one of out a million?”
Monzo: It’s no secret the Rangers need scoring. Despite the comeback win against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, it’s too hard for them to score goals. Understanding it isn’t an easy thing to do, but three goals for the Rangers is a lot, and that’s not going to cut it. The fans don’t need to worry about Marian Gaborik because when he returns, he will be fine. But for now he is out, and they need help.
Richards is the name out there. He is also out with a concussion, but when healthy is the top center the Rangers have craved. I think they will make a serious push for him when he hits free agency. Unfortunately, I think that is the only way you will see him in a Rangers jersey.
Ales Hemsky of Edmonton is also available, and is having a good year. I’m not sure how eager the Oilers are to move him, but at the right price, they will.
My gut tells me the Rangers won’t be able to trade for Richards or Hemsky on the deadline. Sather has been very adamant about not giving up young players. They have bulked up in depth, and while I can see them moving Michael Del Zotto for a major piece, I’m not sure he will be enough. My gut is Richards stays in Dallas and Hemsky, if he moves, goes to Los Angeles.
Keefe: The one thing I will give Sather credit for is building this young core of defenseman that should be good in New York for a while once they gain more experience in the league. The only problem is that I worry that by the time the young defense enters their primes, Henrik Lundqvist will be leaving his and they will have missed the perfect timing and formula to win a championship.
Is it possible that this young defensive unit might be split up over the next few days? And if so, who isn’t safe from getting moved and what new defensemen might we see on Broadway?
Monzo: I believe Matt Gilroy will be dealt. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and I don’t think he will be picked up. He could be part of a package for someone, or just moved for a draft pick. He’s a pretty good player, but inconsistent and hasn’t seemed to find his role in New York.
Michael Del Zotto is the only young player I could seriously see them moving. They won’t move 2010 first-round pick Dylan McIlrath, and rookie Ryan McDonagh has been very good since getting called up to New York.
If they move Del Zotto, it will be for a major piece, but as I said earlier, I don’t think they will pull the trigger on something major.
I think the Rangers will land Bryan McCabe. I don’t think he will be too expensive and he will help this season. The Panthers are going to be active at the deadline, and the player I love is center Stephen Weiss, but I doubt they will move him.
Colorado general manager, Greg Sherman, is shopping John-Michael Liles from Colorado. Liles is signed through next season at over $4 million. The contract is hefty, but at 30 years old, he is still very productive, and could score 40-plus points from the blue line.
I think they will look at defenseman Jim Vandermeer from Edmonton. He’s 30, headed to free agency and very steady. With all the youngsters on the blue line, he could be a valuable asset, and will come on the cheap.
Another interesting name to ponder is Clarke MacArthur from Toronto. He has 46 points in 60 games and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. At 25 years old, he could not only be a real bargain, but a steal. It’s no secret Brian Burke is looking to deal, and MacArthur may be worth the prospect and pick it would take to get him.
Keefe: Andy Brickley likes to say “points are at a premium at this time of the year” as if the two points in March have more value than the two points in October. But with the Hurricanes right behind the Rangers and a handful of teams on the bubble including the Devils, who are trying to make history, I don’t know if the Rangers team as currently constructed will make it over the final 20 games.
If the Rangers miss the postseason, John Tortorella will have missed the playoffs in his two full seasons as head coach of the team and will have blown a 3-1 series lead to the Capitals after taking over the team midseason in 2008-09. Not exactly the most impressive resume in New York for a guy whose resume is otherwise pretty solid.
I know the Rangers have had to deal with their fair share of injuries this season and Tortorella has had to deal with a young defensive core, but the postseason with this roster should be expected.
Monzo: I’m a Tortorella guy. Coaches, especially in hockey, need time. You (and by you, I mean Glen Sather) can’t be blowing through coaches left and right when the team fails. They may not have won under Tortorella yet, but they certainly play hard. As the team grows, you would like to think the team will eventually win.
At this point (despite Dolan’s obsession with Slats), if Tortorella ever goes – and it isn’t his decision – Sather has to go with him.
They have the ability to get in the playoffs. February has been a tough month, but it’s almost over, and they are still in the playoff picture.
A lot of what happens the rest of this season rests on the trade deadline…
Part II coming on Friday.
Who will make the biggest splash at the deadline — the Rangers, Islanders, or Devils? Sound off in the comments below!
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Follow Brian on Twitter at twitter.com/BMonzoNHL660