Thursday, February 17, 2011

Do Rangers Buy, Sell, or Hold at Trade Deadline?

The trade deadline feels like it is rapidly approaching and the Rangers are in a playoff spot with teams not that far ahead and a number close behind, so decisions must be made as to what the Rangers should do.  Around the league many teams are getting a jump on the action making moves early to get more time with their newly acquired players.  With the way the trade deadline is looking I cannot help but think of the stock market and how overvalued the commodities that are on the market seem. 
In the stock market the goal is always to buy low and sell high.  With that philosophy in mind we can put an end to the ideas that Michael Del Zotto, Marian Gaborik or even Evgeny Grachev get moved at the deadline because you will be selling at a depreciated price.  The other issue right now as the initial moves are being made is what is the valuation of the assets being dealt and with each deal so far it seems that the acquiring team is overpaying on the face value of the player they are getting.  Good players have been traded, and I do not mean to knock them, but the prices that the selling teams are getting for some of these guys is ludicrous for the level of talent they are getting.  Chris Kelly, for example, is a third line center on a good team and that with a year left on his contract is not worth a second round draft pick, but that is what the market is pricing at right now.
So the question is simple:  Do the Rangers buy, sell or hold at the deadline?
The problem with simple questions however, is that the answers are not always as simple.  The Rangers truly have the feel of an organization that is stuck in the middle of multiple tracks with no clear vision of what they want out of the season.  There is a part of the organization that seems to look at this season as purely a building and development year in which they really see what they have in the young talent and getting those guys experience at this level.  If that part is the one that wins out as most important between now and deadline day the Rangers will either hold with what they have and possibly tinker in small moves and or sell some pieces (Gilroy, Eminger, Christensen) if they can get anything for them.
Another part of the organization will always look to make the playoffs whether they can actually win once they get there or not.  To be fair, hockey is a business, so looking at the extra revenue of a playoff series is certainly well within the rights of ownership and management.  Along with that making the playoffs would certainly be vital experience for many of the Rangers young players as it would help prepare them for the playoff intensity when the team is better equipped to be a legitimate contender.  If those factors win out then you will likely see the Rangers be buyers at the deadline, though even then the extent to which they move is unclear. 
The biggest move I could see the Rangers making is the rumored move for Kaberle.  I understand the team and fan fascination with the idea of Kaberle because of how pitiful the power play has looked for long stretches.  There is clearly a need, an almost dire need for a quarterback to run the show, but I do not see it as a difference maker of a move.  While Kaberle will make the team better, he does not make them a contender and with the price that Kaberle is going to command in this current market, it is not worth it.
Last season the Rangers were in a similar position to where they currently find themselves and general manager Glen Sather made some tinkering moves, but nothing that sacrificed the future.  The move for Jokinen, while having the potential to be a buyer’s move, was mainly about eliminating Kotalik’s contract and moving Higgins along.  It fits the mold of the Rozsival-Wolski trade that he made earlier this season as well.  Based on what Sather said earlier this week I look for this type of approach this season.  The team is not looking to take on salary or sacrifice important pieces just to make a run this year.
There is nothing wrong with the fact that general fan inclination is always on the buy side so that their team can win now.  Plenty of fans also see the benefits of holding onto what the team has and continuing to build for the future.  Obviously the next six games will have a lot to do with what the final decision is, but I look for Sather to only make a move that has the net effect of the Jokinen or Wolski moves and that is the right course of action for the team.  Sather has been very good at protecting his prospects from trades, though not as much his picks and hopefully that will continue.
For me, I would go with a hold/sell approach in keeping all your future assets and making those moves to look to see if you can get anything of value for disposable pieces like Gilroy.  If I was to look into the buying side, I would look at, depending on price, a faceoff man and a depth defenseman to sure up the last pairing.