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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Rangers Outlook Bleak as Trade Deadline Approaches

    With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, the New York Rangers are in a tougher position than most think. With a struggling, veteran team, General Manager Glen Sather must decide whether to make a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup or open a fire sale and move the aging parts on this team. Though in the thick of the playoff race, they’ve been plagued by inconsistency all season. If this unit continues at this level they assuredly won’t make it through the first round of the playoffs.

    Other than Henrik Lundqvist (likely to sign an extension this week), Scott Gomez and Chris Drury are the only important veterans on this team who are expected to be Rangers for the long haul. The only player other then these three who should be untouchable is promising young defenseman Marc Staal. While the majority of available players would be rentals, it’s been proven in the past that teams desperate for a playoff run will mortgage the future in order to stay competitive through the spring. While moving aging captain Jaromir Jagr or the injury riddled Brendan Shanahan may seem unlikely, there undoubtedly will be some market for these struggling future Hall of Famers. Last season the New York Islanders foolishly sent two prospects and a first round draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Smyth, who in turn bolted the Island in the off-season. In 2006 the Nashville Predators traded two prospects, and a first and third round pick to Philadelphia for an injury plagued Peter Forsberg. When it comes to hall of fame caliber players, there is always a market for them.

    Regardless of whether the Rangers are buyers or sellers at the deadline, Jagr seems unlikely to return next season. It appears Jagr has aged rapidly this season and is still searching for chemistry with Gomez on the top line. The Rangers are committed long term to both Gomez and Drury. It only makes sense that Jagr will be gone next season, leaving cap room to get players more tailored for Gomez and Drury. While Jagr would be difficult to move, someone may be desperate to make an offer similar to what the Oilers and Predators received.

    Last season many were calling for Sather to find a legitimate center to play along side Brendan Shanahan. Although he has played banged up, Shanahan has not had the offensive success that many anticipated this season. Shanahan has endured probably one of the toughest seasons of his career, and at the age of 39 it seems far fetched that he would return with diminishing skills for another season. Where Shanahan has value is he still has the ability to score goals in bunches and could provide veteran leadership and stability to a young team heading into the playoffs.

    Another player who may hang it up at seasons end is Martin Straka. Straka has considered retirement the past two seasons, and with the Czech presence on the Rangers waning, it seems improbable that he would re-sign. Straka can be an important role player. He has ability handling the puck and has been a valuable penalty killer this season. He also has shaken his reputation of being injury prone, as the only significant time he’s missed in his three years in New York was due to a broken hand early this season.

    The likelihood of any of these three returning is improbable at best. On paper this team should be better than last year’s squad. If this team was meeting expectations, the only glaring need (which Sather has ignored for three years now) is a true number one defenseman. While it would certainly help the struggling, overmatched defensive unit, it won’t help Jagr and Shanahan regain the step they’ve lost. It won’t bring Lundqvist back to his early season form. It won’t make Sean Avery play with the controlled aggression he brought last season. It won’t keep Tom Renney from running his fourth line out on the ice in crucial moments of the game. With 24 games to go Sather must acknowledge the disappointment of his team this season.

    Where Sather has a tough job is determining whether this team can regain the late season magic it had last season. While Sather should be open to the idea of moving key veterans he shouldn’t simply give them away for the sake of guaranteeing a return on them. The Rangers have two weeks to show whether they are capable of making a run. This task falls on the shoulders of a select few. Renney must push every right button. He can’t find himself watching Ryan Hollweg chase the likes of Alexander Ovechkin with the game on the line. Jagr must find his scoring touch quickly. The offensive production of this team revolves around him. As his scoring drought continues, the team spirals down around him. Lastly, Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to play at the level he played at the final 40 games of last season. With shaky defense and streaky scoring, Lundqvist must steal every game he can down the stretch. With Lundqvist at his best he takes the Rangers from an average playoff team to a Stanley Cup contender.

    This team, as currently constructed, will not be back next season. As of now it seems unlikely they will have success come playoff time, but anything is possible. Does Sather feel the possibility is strong enough that he disconnects his phone until Feb. 29? Or does he start accumulating an array of prospects and draft picks? That we will find out.

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