One thing that is often going unmentioned in all these talks about exactly where Jarome Iginla, or any other free agent of even the vaguest name value and declining hockey skill, will end up is that a team which is so often considered a rather enthusiastic buyer in the market has been largely silent.
It’s been tough to dig up any information about who the New York Rangers might be interested in pursuing at the deadline, if anyone, and that strikes me as being more than a little weird. On the one hand, John Tortorella’s boys are vastly underperforming expectations, and as of this writing sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, a place pretty much no one expected them to be after they won the conference by a point last season and went to the Eastern Conference Final against the Devils. They returned just about everyone, added Rick Nash, had some exciting rookies in the offing, all that stuff. But one has to wonder exactly how much this unforeseen down year changes expectations. Apart from the usual distant rumblings about an appetite for moving Marian Gaborik, which have been shaking the ground underneath Madison Square Garden ever so slightly more or less since he was acquired for reasons I’m not sure I understand, it seems unlikely that the Rangers would ever actually go to the trouble of selling off veteran pieces unless they tank very, very hard in the next few days and maybe Henrik Lundqvist retires.
On the other hand, Glen Sather has, despite not proving himself to be particularly adept at signing people to reasonable contracts, largely been good at trading with other general managers across the league. And so would it really, truly be that much of a surprise for the Rangers to start loading mediocre veterans into their shopping basket like they went to the grocery store after skipping lunch?
Or, to add a third hand to the mix, I guess, he could choose to stand pat and hope the Rangers squeeze into the playoffs based on the general quality of his existing roster — and not the results to this point — as well as the general crumminess of the teams chasing the last Eastern Conference postseason spot. Carolina, Washington, and the Islanders can’t really put that much fear into a roster this good, no matter how badly they’ve stumbled along this year.
The latter two options seem equally feasible, because short season or not, the Rangers are still an excellently-constructed, well-coached hockey club that just happens to not be able to stay healthy. That they are in any danger of missing the playoffs — or that they have a negative goal differential — is totally shocking, and if they ripped off, say, six straight wins, it would only raise eyebrows league-wide because well, they haven’t done that yet, and it’s rather out of character.
They could certainly use a theoretical upgrade here and there, as any team might regardless of how good they are. For instance, the Rangers have the second-worst offense in the entire league, at just 2.26 goals per game, but are still allowing the fourth-fewest (2.36). The reason for this is that they’re shooting 7.4 percent (second-lowest in the league ahead of San Jose’s 7.3; besides them, only Ottawa at 7.7 has a shooting percentage below 8.0). Their shots per game are eighth in the NHL, and to sit here and say that the Rangers’ offense is a problem is flatly wrong. The team has been extraordinarily unlucky. Adding a veteran forward, whomever it could be, might help, but it also might not. Larry Brooks apparently said the other day that the Rangers might want to acquire a right-shot defenseman, and one presumes his name would rhyme with Tan Foil. But even still, what do you give up for a guy like that? Presuming the Sharks are going to be sellers, which they very well might not because they are in pretty much the exact same position as the Rangers — that’s a good-on-paper veteran group with a well-respected coach that, again, has been very unlucky in attack and as a consequence is hanging on very tenuously to a playoff position — they’d probably want the moon considering useless lump Douglas Murray fetched a second-round pick and a conditional one after that from the Penguins for some bizarre reason.
The Rangers frankly don’t have the moon to give (no first-round pick this season, probably value a number of their more coveted prospects too highly to move, etc.), and certainly not for an aged rental like Boyle, unless they’re crazily desperate to make the playoffs. Which, again, they might be. The window isn’t shutting on them like it is San Jose, considering the age of many of their best players including pretty much all their defensemen, but one has to imagine that Glen Sather’s desire to simply accept missing the playoffs, however grudgingly, like it was 1998-2004 is non-existent. They probably won’t make a hard push toward either buying or selling unless things really go sideways one way or the other, because this is a team that’s way better than it’s been doing, and overcommitting to either path seems like complete insanity.