This guy is mad.

This guy is doing that “I’m really mad” smile and it’s scary.

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.

Comments (8)

  1. Eh, it’s tough to gauge. Honestly, I think the team should largely stand pat – I don’t think there’s much that CAN realistically be done.

    Richards seems to have fallen out of game shape due to the extended off-season, injuries caused by their aggressive hard checking/shot-blocking style are coming home to roost, so to speak, Brian Boyle being miscast as a 3rd line center, and a significant amount of roster turnover (yup, I said it) have hurt. Factor in the lack of a real training camp – necessary for a Torts team – and it’s very conceivable that the team misses the playoffs regardless of it acquires Jagr, Iginla, et. al.

    They should just make a minor tweak at the deadline, ride the season out, let the chips fall where they may, and then regroup in the offseason.

  2. I think last year the NYR rode the wave of some decent luck and Lundqvist playing about as good as he’ll ever play. This year was bound to be a disappointment honestly. I am surprised their scoring has been as bad as it has been though . That said, they did lose some young players who were good on both sides of the puck in getting Nash in Anisimov and Dubinsky, and then losing Prust to Montreal (Asham and Halpern were the replacements basically, and Halpern alone should have been enough to make that ok, but he had some crappy bounces).

    If Im the NYR, I dont think Id do much. They have been strong at even strength, with bad shooting it seems. Ultimately, a few bounces here and there and this is a top 4 seed, which is probably where they belong.

  3. Some of the Rangers’ top players (Richards, Gaborik) aren’t playing up to form. They’re not getting the depth contributions this year that they got last year – after losing guys like Dubinsky and Prust, and just not getting much out of guys like Brian Boyle.

    Their PDO of 0.995 doesn’t seem to suggest they’re terribly unlucky overall ( http://nhlnumbers.com/2013/3/25/pdo-numbers-by-nhl-team-mar-25 ), but you would expect them to put more of their shots in the net.

    It sounds like they’re going to pick up MZA again, who might add some good playmaking depth to the team.
    They’re making noises as if they might try to move a guy like Brian Boyle, and I’m sure they’re kicking the tires on both forwards and defensemen to see what they can do. I wouldn’t expect too much movement; then again, I’m pretty sure Glen Sather must have compromising pictures of most other GM’s, based on the trades he’s pulled, so goodness only knows what he might pull off.

    This is a team that’s certainly underperforming relative to expectations. Given the age of some of their players, and more importantly, the contract status (you can’t keep McDonaugh, Hagelin, Stepan, and the rest of the team on cheap deals forever, and Girardi for example is likely due for a nice raise), they don’t have an extended window. It’ll be interesting to see how urgently their GM plays this. But that doesn’t mean squat unless the team starts playing with a sense of urgency.

  4. The issue I see with the rangers isnt what they need, anyone can see that (depth scoring, offensive defenseman), but who they would have to give up to acquire these assets. MDZ, a name that is frequently brought up, has forced me to do a complete 180 on him, to the point where he’s becoming one of our most consistant blue liners. My issue with Lambart brouching the point of the window closing, I’d point to Hagelin, Stepan, McDonagh all getting new contracts this off-season. The hope here is that these players recieve their “bridge contracts” rather than seeing immediate big numbers (see hall, eberle). How would the rangers be able to pay these players, plus another top teir defensemen, with the newly condenced salary cap? These issues are amongst just a few facing this rangers team that has under-performed more than anything.

    • Good news is, this coming offseason, the team loses the buyout penalties (nice going, Glen!) of Wade Redden ($5.6 mil) and Chris Drury ($1.66 mil), plus crap like Hamrlik ($3.5 mil). That’s over $10 mil saved right there. And throw in Michael Sauer, who, sadly, probably won’t be qualified at over the $1.25 mil he’s making.

      The offseason afterwards, with Callahan, Girardi, Lundqvist, going UFA and MDZ becoming RFA?! Yikes…

  5. I’m surprised at how little comparison is being made between NYR this year and last year’s Kings. While I doubt anyone truly expects a second 8th seed to plow through the playoffs in consecutive years, the lesson needs to be heeded: if you have a rockstar goalie (Lunqvuist vs Quick), elite forwards (Gaborik, BRichards, Nash vs Kopitar, MRichards, Carter) and well-balanced defence (McDonagh, Girardi vs Doughty, Mitchell) it doesn’t matter a whit how underwhelming or disappointing your route to the playoffs was as long as everyone stands up at the same time.

    If I’m the NYR I’m not panicking at all.

  6. Eh, I’ve been a Ranger fan for almost 26 years, since I was 10, and aside from ’94, hope dies eternal. :-(

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