As several sources have now reported, the beleaguered Del Zotto has been sent to Nashville, marking the end of a long and drawn out saga in which Sather patiently hoped his value would increase. It appears it did not. In return for DZ, the Rangers acquired Kevin Klein, a physical defenseman who checks hard blocks shots, the former of which is something the Rangers have been noticeably lacking of late. However, in exchange for Del Zotto, this seems to be a lateral move at best, particularly when compared to what Sather was reportedly asking for the troubled playmaker. While Klein addresses one issue in the fact that he is a right-handed d-man, he’s also six years older than Del Zotto, and without any real potential for offensive improvement.
There is one other scenario in which this trade makes a lot of sense, and Rangers fans might not like it. Dan Girardi becomes a UFA this off-season, and much has been made about the widespread interest in the stalwart blueliner (even by me, here). Klein’s physicality and defensive capability may be replacement value for Girardi, and could indicate that Sather is looking to move his long-standing #2 d-man rather than watch him walk away in the free agency. Anaheim has admitted that they covet Girardi, and the Ducks have several assets that should be of interest to the Rangers (although some of them, like recently acquired Jakub Silfverberg would be harder to pilfer than others).
Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Glen Sather isn’t done yet.
After 42 games, the Rangers have 42 points. By some divine intervention, this leaves them only 3 points out of playoff contention, but in any other division the Rangers would be at least 10 points shy of playing through April. If the NHL divisions were all in kindergarten together, the Metropolitan division would be in the corner in overalls trying to eat the Legos. But the fact that the Metropolitan Division is the losing-est in hockey is the only thing keeping Rangers fans hopeful right now. A 20-20-2 record isn’t going to get much attention from the folks at Guinness, but it should be getting the attention of Glen Sather. Even if the septuagenarian is planning to fade into a haze of cigar smoke after this season and hand the reins to someone a little more spry (as Nick Kypreos postulated in December), there’s still plenty of things to do now. Whether they deserve it or not, the Rangers are still in hot contention for a playoff spot, and clearly something has to change. Poor Alain Vingeault has tried more lines than Keith Richards on a Saturday night, yet he still can’t seem to get the Rangers going. No one is hitting at all. Callahan or Pouliot will occasionally lower the boom, but Stralman’s effective (and crowd-pleasing) hip check has been absent the past few games, and even grinders like Boyle and D. Moore have been shying away from the rough stuff lately. This was especially evident last night in Pittsburgh. And PIT would have been the perfect place to do even more hitting than usual. The Pens are a plucky team, particularly Crosby, and the Rangers might have drawn more penalties if they’d drawn more blood. AV needs to realize that this is an integral part of the game right now (forever, really, but let’s start with right now), especially since, as he himself acknowledged, the Rangers don’t have the pieces in place to play his run-and-gun system.
So who might they be interested in (give or take a Draft Pick)? Surely they want to move Del Zotto, so lets look at the teams that have a confirmed interest in DZ:
It came out recently that the most serious trade discussion so far took place with OTT GM Bryan Murray. Apparently Eric Gryba and Erik Condra were offered, as well as Colin Greening, but no move was made. Possibly because Sather was looking to move Del Zotto alone at the time, but also possibly because of the budget concerns. OTT is still trying to lower spending to meet an internal budget, while the Rangers were (at the time) less than $1 million from the almighty salary cap. Unfortunately, OTT and NY don’t seem to have the roster to make a compatible deal unless Ottawa brings other players into the mix.
POSSIBLE DEAL: Del Zotto and a 4th Round Pick FOR Gryba and Cody Ceci
The Avs are a bit of a surprise here. Unless they start to fall off dramatically towards the trade deadline it would be hard to see them moving heaven and earth to acquire anyone. That being said, they did show at least a passing interest, but Colorado would be unlikely to want to part with anyone the Rangers should be interested in.
POSSIBLE DEAL: Del Zotto FOR Tyson Barrie
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Here’s where things start to get interesting. TOR GM Dave Nonis seems to have the means and the desire make a move, and possibly not just for Del Zotto. Jake Gardiner is reportedly available, and Carlyle has made no qualms about the fact that he’s not pleased with Nazim Kadri. The Rangers could definitely use some scoring (top line and secondary) and there’s some solid players to be looked at in Toronto. Not to mention the Rangers will be there this afternoon to take a look for themselves. Toronto has the makings of ground zero for a big trade.
POSSIBLE DEAL: Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, and Brian Boyle FOR Kadri, Gardiner, and Nikolai Kulemin
Other teams the Rangers should be talking to include:
ANAHEIM: Banged up defense might be looking for a bolstering. Ask about Jakob Silfverberg.
EDMONTON: Definitely a team looking to shake things up, but top 4 d-men might be untouchable right now. Ask about Justin Schultz and/or Mark Arcobello
FLORIDA: They have been shopping Kulikov recently, a sweepstakes the Rangers would be wise to examine closely, if not enter.
WINNIPEG: Friction has emerged between the club and star forward Evander Kane. His salary would be a tough fit for the Rangers even if (big if) the Jets are frustrated enough to move him, but they’ve had their defensive struggles as well, so a mixed bag package might not be out of the question.
And speaking of shopping players, Glen Sather should get an idea about what a few of his own guys are worth as well.
RANGERS WHO SHOULD BE SHOPPED:
Del Zotto: Pretty well covered above
Girardi: Girardi’s main draw has always been his ability to stay healthy (he’s missed two games since 2006) and play solid defense. As a pending UFA who’ll be 30 this year, this might be the time to sell high on the stalwart defenseman who may or may not decline/degrade in the waning years of his next contract. It’s a risk, because he’s been an integral part of the defense for so long, but all things considered it might be time for Sather to give Girardi a VERY sincere thank you and move on.
Marc Staal: This is a move that should only be made if the price is right, but if the right deal comes along, Sather shouldn’t cling to fond memories of Marc Staal. As much as he is adored by fans and teammates, the poor guy just can’t seem to stay healthy. Note also: repeated concussion issues. Staal probably doesn’t have the longevity that some other options might.
Ryan Callahan: I’m sure that Sather and the fans would love for Callahan to re-sign in NY, but there are considerations. Yes, he’s going to get a raise. Yes, he brings a lot of different elements to the game, including so-called intangibles like leadership and energy. The fact of the matter is, however, the man is prone to injury. And the Rangers are at a point where even if they do the smart thing and buy out Brad Richards this summer, they just can’t afford to be paying for anything they’re not getting. At this point, unless his salary demands are extraordinary, the Rangers should re-sign him, but things aren’t looking good by the trade deadline, it might be worth looking at all the options.
Brian Boyle: As much as I have always liked Brian Boyle, the fact of the matter is, he’s certainly not worth $1.7 million a year. With plenty of teams looking to add size and a reliable face-off man (or truculence, if you’re Calgary) it shouldn’t be difficult to get a pick or a player for Boyle around the deadline. And if he continues to miss both the net and his checks, that’s just what the Rangers should do.
With the Rangers treading water at .500, there are definitely improvements to be made. How drastic those changes are will likely depend on the next six weeks. If the Rangers maintain playoff contention, then many of these moves may prove unnecessary, or at least can be avoided until the summer. But should the Rangers continue to slide down the standings, Sather may have no choice but to become one of the more talkative GM’s before the March 5th trade deadline.
Many were shocked today, as Tom Wilson was neither suspended nor fined after sending Brayden Schenn hard into the boards, earning himself a major penalty and a game misconduct for charging. It didn’t take long for Brendan Shannahan to announce that he wanted to speak to the 19-year-old about it.
Washington’s Tom Wilson will have a phone hearing tomorrow afternoon for charging Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 18, 2013
But just this afternoon the Department of Player Safety announced that Wilson would receive no supplemental discipline for the hit that even Mike Milbury said the league “should be trying to get out of the game”. A video explaining the lack of suspension was released shortly after the announcement was made, and as much as you hate to see players injured, it actually makes a great deal of sense.
Without a doubt, this has been far from a great month in terms of player safety. Nine suspensions totaling 38 games have been handed down this month so far, meaning NHL players as a whole are losing one game to suspensions for almost every 3 games played (there have been 120 in December prior to tonight’s action). With numbers like that, it’s easy to portray the NHL as an out-of-control melee instead of a carefully monitored sport. So lets examine all nine suspensions.
|12/7||James Neal (PIT)||Kneeing (Brad Marchand, BOS)||5 Games|
|12/7||Shawn Thornton (BOS)||Agressing (Brooks Orpik, PIT)||15 Games|
|12/8||Dion Phaneuf (TOR)||Boarding (Kevan Miller, BOS)||2 Games|
|12/10||Jared Cowen (OTT)||Illegal Check to the Head (Zemgus Girgensons, BUF)||2 Games|
|12/10||Richard Panik (TBL)||Boarding (Karl Alzner, WAS)||2 Games|
|12/12||David Clarkson (TOR)||Illegal Check to the Head (Vladimir Sobotka, STL)||2 Games|
|12/14||Anthony Peluso (WPG)||Boarding (Alex Gligoski, DAL)||3 Games|
|12/14||Deryk Engelland (PIT)||Illegal Check to the Head (Justin Abdelkader, DET)||5 Games|
|12/15||Corey Potter (EDM)||Boarding (Nick Bonino, ANH)||2 Games|
Removing Thornton’s penalty (since it occurred after the whistle and away from the play and wasn’t a “Hockey Play” to steal a term from American Football), you’re left with eight suspensions averaging 2.875 games/suspension. Compare that to October, which saw 10 suspensions averaging 4.4 games per suspension (or, if you prefer an identical sample size, there were six suspensions between 10/1 and 10/19, averaging 4.6 games/suspension). In the entirety of the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, there were 17 suspensions totaling 47 games, for an average of 2.765 games each. These averages are important, because they show, overall, the severity of the infractions. By the numbers, October was a much more violent month than December. The notion that this month, Professional Hockey is an veritable crime spree is a pronounced distortion of the truth.
That being said, the numbers also appear to be trending down season to season. In the 2011-12 season (a full season), for instance, there were 35 total suspensions resulting in 101 total games, for an average of 2.885 games/suspension. That was a significant downturn from the 2010-11 season which saw 32 total suspensions for 116 games, averaging 3.625 games/suspension. While the number of suspensions is remaining relatively similar, the length of those suspensions is decreasing, and not because Shannahan is going soft, either. The fact of the matter is, the while hockey is a fast game, and players continue to make split-second mistakes, the severity of those mistakes is going down. Players are more conscious of each other than ever before, thanks to the Dept. of Player Safety keeping a close eye out and communicating more than ever to explain rulings to teams and fans.
There is one problem that is getting bigger and bigger, however, but it’s not getting any press at all: thanks to these more stringent rules, players appear to be deliberately putting themselves in more vulnerable positions in the hopes that being more vulnerable will deter a hit, or at least provide a powerplay if their opponent follows through. Watch the next time you see a player move in to play a puck along the boards. It won’t take long before you see the first player in bend over with his feet apart facing the glass, daring his opponents to deliver a check that would almost certainly be called for boarding. This phenomenon isn’t specific to one team, or one group of players, it seems to be going on league-wide, and Wilson’s hit on Schenn is a perfect example. Rather than stick to the boards, wrapping the puck around the glass and getting bumped for his trouble, Schenn opts to put himself in a more vulnerable position, hoping to avoid the hit entirely. A similar example came earlier this season, when Cody McLeod was suspended 5 games for boarding Niklas Kronwall:
Again, we see a player intentionally putting themselves in a more vulnerable position to try and avoid the hit. While responsibility is ultimately on the player making the hit to make a good decision in terms of when and when not to make a check, all players have a responsibility to themselves, and the integrity of the game, to play with as much awareness as possible. And that includes the awareness that in today’s NHL, you’re going to get hit.