David Pagnotta of TheFourthPeriod reported via twitter last night that the New York Rangers were in attendance for the Leafs game against the Bruins. Normally I would think little of that as just about every team scouts every other team, but since the Rangers do not have the Leafs on the schedule in the near future it was somewhat curious. Add to that his follow-up which he had this tweet:
Food for thought... same 2 Rangers pro scouts here tonight were here last Tuesday, and 1 was here last Thursday.
That is a lot of time to spend scouting a team unless you are at least considering some of their players and with the time in the season it would have to be via a trade. The obvious question at that point becomes who on the Leafs would the Rangers be scouting and/or looking to acquire in a trade? The name I can predict pops to the front of most heads in terms of who the Rangers should go after will be one that is already in trade rumors; Kris Versteeg. There is a lot to like about Versteeg as the 24 year old winger has playoff experience, a championship ring and plays a gritty all-around game with offensive skill. I said two years ago that he is a lot like Callahan and we all know how beloved Ryan Callahan is in Rangerland.
As I said Versteeg is a name that has been coming up of late in rumors from the likes of Pierre LeBrun to he who shall not be named. In his story Pierre LeBrun kept the details vague other than to say that Burke was not shopping Versteeg but had received a hard offer that caused him to pause and consider a move he had not planned on making. The fuzz on the other hand stuck a name on the idea of moving Versteeg, which was that of Brayden Schenn from the L.A. Kings and if that is the hard offer that LeBrun is speaking of and Burke did not immediately say yes to the deal he has lost his mind and should quit or be fired.
There are a lot of good things about Versteeg as a I referenced before, but if you have a lot of teams seeking a player it forces a bidding war and you are bound to overpay. With all the good that Versteeg brings also realize he is not a first liner on a good team, but more of a second or third liner as he was in Chicago and as Callahan should be. Versteeg is likely a 20-25 goal 45-55 point guy at his peak and really if the Rangers are going to give up anything legit you need first line player.
Other guys from Toronto that the Rangers could be interested in might include Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and always the possibility of Tomas Kaberle.
Grabovski, 26, is a highly skilled player that has good speed, but has never fully put it together over long stretches. Right now he is having a very solid season with a 14-14-28 line and while not spectacular has been effective in the faceoff circle winning at a 47.1% rate. Grabovski has one year remaining on his deal at 2.9 million against the cap.
Kulemin, 24, is a good skater with good speed while working hard on both ends and being willing to take the body and play in the dirty areas. He would actually be a very good fit for the system the Rangers are running in the mold of a Fedotenko type player with more scoring ability. He currently has contributed 13-11-24 on the season and has one season at 2.35 million left on his deal.
Kaberle, 32, is a player that has long been rumored to be traded and still never has been, so I will not believe anything involving him until a trade is done. The upside to Kaberle is obvious in that he clearly solves the power play quarterback problem considered on a lacking team he has 14 power play assists as part of a 1-23-24 line. The big negative is that he would cost a decent return though that seems to diminish as they get closer to the end of his deal in which he is below market value.
Some will say Kessel but cannot see them moving him with all they gave up to get him; Beauchmin is solid but not worth 3.8 on the cap next year and Komisarek is vastly overpaid. Personally none of these names based on the combination of money and prospects it would take to obtain them really excite me, but Kulemin is probably the one if I had to pick one who should be available for a mid-prospect or a pick and has a reasonable contract. Maybe I am missing something entirely, but I do not really see why the Rangers are scouting the Leafs at all unless it is a big move where they send Gaborik there and get players like Kadri and Luke Schenn back. Nothing Toronto has really elevates the Rangers above where they are, so overall I pass, but as always trades depend on the cost of what you are getting so I am sure some combination could make me want to say yes.