Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rangers Should Target Paul Stastny Not Brad Richards

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The common wisdom surrounding the New York Rangers and the looming trade deadline is the team wants to deal for a defenseman who can help the power play and has an expiring contract.  While the power play and the third pair on defense is a problem, the Rangers still have a skill problem with their forward core that is causing serious issues putting the puck in the net. 

Along with the multitude of rumors surrounding defense, the main offensive rumors for the Rangers have surrounded interest in the talented, but oft-injured Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers.  I do not see him as the answer either because while talented he is injured too much to be worth the gamble and does not solve the team's issues at center.  Over the past few days there has been increased chatter around the Rangers going after Brad Richards before the deadline.  The chatter was added to this morning during today's Dreger Report when Dreger reported that the Rangers were one of as many as six teams to inquire about Richards.  I have always said the Ranger should not trade assets for Richards and that was before he had a concussion, so you certainly do not do it now.  Richards does not make them a title contender this year, so wait and sign him in the summer if he is the answer.  I think there is another solution.
Maybe it is time to call timeout, take a step back and draw up a plan that involves a move that is not just for this year, but the long term health of this hockey club as well.  Over the past week some impressive young players have changed teams and not just for playoff moves or rentals, but old-fashioned hockey trades that can help in the short-term and reshape a team in the long run.  Instead of dealing for an older Brad Richards the team could make a run at Paul Stastny, if he is truly available, to give Gaborik a number one center to play with on the top line.
To be clear this is NOT a rumor, this is my suggestion.

The Colorado Avalanche have shown in the last week they are more than willing to move some of their young pieces in an attempt to remake their squad with their deal to send Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional first round pick to St. Louis for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and a conditional second round pick.  Adrian Dater of the Denver post wrote on Sunday evening that he believes the Avalanche will make another trade before the deadline and that it very well might be a center that is on the way out. 
I’ll bet even money one of them is gone by Monday, though I’m not including Duchene in the list. That means – that’s right -I’ve included Stastny in the list of possible “touchables.”
Rumors – yup, I’ve heard a few. I have no real confidence in this one, but I’ve heard this one going around the water cooler. Ready?
Stastny, TJ Galiardi and maybe a pick/another player to Los Angeles for Jack Johnson, Jonathan Bernier and Jarret Stoll.
This is how crazy it’s getting around the Avalanche right now.
Personally, I wouldn’t do that deal with the Kings. I don’t think we should just be ready to give up on Stastny right now, in all this turmoil. That smacks of a pure panic move, but let’s not think he’s untouchable right now.
Dealing Stastny would absolutely be a panic move by the Avalanche, and I am not sure they truly would, but it is a move that the Rangers should explore trying to help them make.  Stastny, 25, has 18 goals, 30 assists and 48 points in 58 games this season.  This season he was an All-Star for the second time and has had three 70+ point seasons in his career.  Over his career he has 300 points in 331 career games and is a player who you can count on for 25 goals and 50 assists a season, which is something the Rangers simply do not have.  Stastny is also excellent on the power play as he has had at least 19 power play points in every season of his career.  Let me not forget to mention that he wins 53.1% of his faceoffs which would fill another huge void in the Rangers team. He is under contract for three more seasons at $6.6 million per year, which is more than more than he is worth right now, but these next three years should be the prime of his career, so he could rise into the salary.
Pairing Stastny with Gaborik gives Marian a legit first line playmaker that can keep up with him speed wise and also finish for himself.  If the Rangers put Brandon Dubinsky on the other wing you would have the makings of a line that can play both a physical and skill game and playing with a dynamic pair like Stastny and Gaborik would give Dubinsky plenty of opportunities to get some garbage goals.
Obviously getting a guy like Stastny comes with a steep price and while I, as much as anyone, have been a proponent of building through the youth at some point we have to come to the realization that you do need top players to win.  In the post lockout era of NHL hockey I believe it is necessary that you have two elite forwards on your team to be successful and in many cases those players have to play the center position.  The Rangers have been unable to find one either in free agency or through the draft.  

The organization has done a very good job of building up a stockpile of quality players and people who can fill roles in the NHL, but the honest assessment is many of them are best suited for secondary roles.  The team still lacks a primary first line center.  The thought process has been Brad Richards will be that guy this summer.  Instead of spending that money on a long term deal for a player over 30 years old why not trade for one who might be available today and is much younger?  For me a player like Paul Stastny fits that billing.
The obvious downside to make a trade for Stastny as opposed to waiting to sign Richards this summer is that you have to give up assets to get him.  So what might be the cost of acquiring a Paul Stastny?  I would expect that it would start with a package built around Artem Anisimov and Michael Del Zotto.  The upside of those two players combined with the salary cap relief moving Stastny’s contract would bring to the Avalanche might entice them to make a move.  While this move would be a gamble for the Rangers as both of those players have large upsides, this is one of those gambles I think is worth making to help solve multiple holes the team has been unable to accomplish otherwise.  Dealing Del Zotto does leave the same void in terms of a puck moving defenseman, but if rumors have him going to Edmonton for Hemsky I would rather move him for a player like Stastny.  This move is one that can help now and also build towards the future when more of the reinforcements within the system are ready to contribute.

As Adrian Dater pointed out, it is unlikely that the Avalanche end up moving Stastny, but if the Rangers are going to buy this move makes a lot more sense then going after a player like Hemsky as it fills more holes on the team than dealing for another winger.  Maybe Peter Stastny's comments blowing up the Avalanche organization for the Stewart/Johnson trade helps move things along.  Besides, a phone call to ask never hurts.