‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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When the Rangers allowed Brandon Prust to join the Montreal Canadiens and let Ruslan Fedotenko bolt for the Philadelphia Flyers, they gave up a ton of grit, tenacity and toughness.
By surrendering a second-round pick, third-round pick and conditional second-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for 6-foot-2 workhorse winger Ryane Clowe on Tuesday, the Rangers are essentially throwing their hands up and admitting they botched things in the offseason by allowing Prust and Fedotenko to leave via free agency.
The Rangers are pinning their hopes on Clowe being the kind of player who can give them a tenacious spark. They hope he can transform them from a team without a true identity into one that plays a more rugged style of hockey.
Clowe’s added determination comes at a very important stage of the season as the Rangers are battling for a playoff spot with 13 games remaining. His first game as a Ranger couldn’t come in a more crucial stage of the season, as New York is set to play a home-and-home with a dominant Pittsburgh Penguins team that has won 15 of their last 16 games.
Clowe Ready To Be Thrown Into The Fire Against Penguins
He is fully expected to be in the lineup against the Penguins on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden after skating on Wednesday morning at the Rangers’ training center in Tarrytown. Going into Wednesday, the Rangers are sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and are two games behind the Islanders. Their current position forced general manager Glen Sather to beat a number of teams — including the Philadelphia Flyers — chasing after Clowe’s services.
Sather was delighted to complete the deal and spoke glowingly of Clowe in an official statement.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to acquire Ryane,” Sather said. “He is a unique combination of size, skill and toughness. His strong leadership and character make him a tremendous addition to our organization on and off the ice.”
It’s clear that Clowe was not brought to Broadway to fix the Blueshirts’ lackluster power play. Through 28 games this season, Clowe is without a goal and has 11 assists, while delivering 69 hits and 15 blocked shots.
Remember how Fedotenko would be black and blue after nearly every game as a Ranger? That’s what you’re going to see from Clowe. He’ll give everything for the cause. You’ll see flashes of both Prust and Fedotenko in Clowe’s game.
Clowe Will Do The Dirty Jobs That Others Have Shied Away From
Clowe loves battling in the corners and doing dirty work that allows more skilled teammates space to find goals. His best on-ice attribute is his strength on the puck. Clowe is a hard guy to move off the puck along the boards, and he uses his big body effectively in front of the net to cause traffic. It results in goals not only for himself, but also his teammates.
That’s something that the Rangers have sorely lacked this season. Their play in the slot has been somewhat invisible outside of Ryan Callahan’s usual gutsy efforts in the low slot.
Again, Clowe is without a goal this season. To some, it did not make a ton of sense to surrender high-round draft picks for a player who’s been struggling through poor play and shoulder issues.
After the Rick Nash mega-trade this past summer and Tuesday’s deal for Clowe, the Rangers are without first and second-round picks ahead of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Considering their need to improve their blue line before the 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Rangers’ highest remaining draft picks is a third rounder through the Nashville Predators and Columbus’ conditional third-round pick.
It will be easy for Rangers fans to point out that had Sather kept Prust, they could have used the picks moved in the Clowe deal to acquire a talented defenseman or perhaps add scoring punch. That’s completely fair, but the Rangers can’t turn back time.
Instead, the Rangers are offering a sincere “mea culpa” to fans — especially the ones who loved Prust — by acquiring the closest thing on the market to the beloved former No. 8.
I think that Rangers fans are going to fall in love with Clowe at first sight. They appreciate the bangers, the workers and the scrappers. He fits that mold and will provide a lot of the trademarks missing from the Rangers’ lineup.
What’s Next For The Rangers?
Clowe’s addition has a significant impact on the Rangers’ salary-cap situation. He is also an unrestricted free agent to be, and it’s more than likely that the Rangers will re-sign Clowe to an extension.
Sather is going to have to get creative if he wants to add a few more parts before the 3 p.m. trade deadline passes.
Forwards Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt are two names that are being floated around as the deadline nears. It’s entirely possible that one or both could be moved to clear space for another deal that improves the Rangers on the blue line. It wouldn’t be surprising to see streaky Anton Stralman moved in a deal for a defenseman.
Gaborik’s name has continued to be linked in trade rumors. It would be very difficult to imagine the Rangers being able to offload Gaborik considering his salary, lack of production and no-trade clause.
If the Rangers are serious about moving Gaborik, they will be better off doing so in the summer, especially if he rediscovers his game during the playoffs. Don’t expect Gaborik to move before the 3 p.m. deadline.
As the hours tick down, it will be interesting to see how Sather reshapes the Rangers’ roster. The Clowe deal has given the Rangers a bit of a facelift. I’m intrigued by what other moves Sather might be willing to make before 3 p.m. Stay tuned…
What are your thoughts on the Clowe addition? Will his injection of tenacity save the Rangers’ season? What other moves would you like to see Sather make? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettHockey.