Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tim Erixon Brings Rangers Excellent Talent And Organizational Flexibility

This morning there was an examination of the cost the New York Rangers paid to acquire Tim Erixon from the Calgary Flames yesterday.  Now we will go beyond the cost of Erixon in terms of the trade and look at both what the Rangers are getting on the ice to add to their already stacked young defensive corps and what it means for the organization overall.
The National Hockey League is driven by talent and when you have the ability to acquire high end talent, especially without costing anything on your current roster, you have to make the move.  You make the deal both for what it can do for the team on the ice, as well as the freedom and flexibility it gives the organization to make other transactions.  The New York Rangers exercised that thinking yesterday when they traded for yet another highly regarded young defense prospect despite the immense depth their defensive corps already possessed.
Having Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer and Michael Del Zotto here already gave the New York Rangers one of the best young defensive corps in the league.  The work of Glen Sather to not let that stand in the way deserves to be praised and creates options for him to help solve the Rangers scoring issues.  Having Kundratek, Valentenko, Pashnin and McIlrath, to name a few, also in the prospect pipeline it is very likely that the Rangers will move either someone from the NHL ranks or a prospect to gain forward help.  Now they can do that from an even greater position of strength with an increased level of trade chips at their disposal.
Now let us take a deeper look at what the Rangers are getting on the ice with Tim Erixon in the fold.
It's amazing when you can go through the many scouting reports that we have on him and see that there are not a whole lot of mistakes by a young defenseman.
In regards to Tim Erixon, he is an NHL-ready prospect and one who projects to be a significant contributor in the NHL. Erixon is a pro-level skater, maybe even a tad above with a fluid stride and overall mobility that projects well. He's decent with the puck, not much of a handler but can move and rush the puck up and is an effective distributor on the power play. I've never really been a fan of his shot, although it has taken notable strides since his draft year. He measures in at over 6 feet and 200 pounds, but still has a twig-like figure and needs one of those summers to really bulk up before he comes to the NHL. He has added more of a physical edge to his game since his U-18 days, but the strength isn't there enough for him to be completely effective in that regard. Erixon derives his value from his game-processing and hockey sense, which I grade as plus and that's not something I do often. His defensive game is extremely sound, he's very aware with and without the puck, and quick and effective decision-making help him contribute in all situations. He's the kind of player who I project in a few seasons could be playing against the opposition's top players, playing a fair amount of defensive zone minutes while putting up good possession numbers and chipping in decent counting numbers offensively. It's very realistic to say that Tim Erixon could be a steady first pairing defenseman in the NHL. If he had re-entered the draft, I would have easily had him in the 10-12 range in my current rankings and arguably in the top 10.
The Hockey Writers (from his draft year):
Son of former NHLer, Jan, Erixon is a two-way blueliner, with a greater propensity for the offensive side of the game. Having said that, he might have a better defensive acumen than fellow Swedish defenseman prospects Rundblad and OEL. He does possess very good on-ice vision and hockey sense. He is a mature player and the main thing he has to work on to ensure what will appear to be a smooth transition to the big leagues will be his skating and acceleration.
You read those scouting reports about a guy who is a very good skater, solid size, excellent defensive positioning, plays the body and has a high hockey sense.  Those traits make me think of the Rangers own Ryan McDonagh though with more offensive upside.  Even without the offensive upside, if the Rangers could get yet another Ryan McDonagh in the organization with the promise that he showed during his rookie season they would be ecstatic.  Luckily for the Rangers they have the ability to get both in Erixon.
This past season he had five goals and 19 assists while playing nearly 20 minutes a night in his 48 games.  Given the lack of scoring in the Swedish Elite League his offensive numbers are that much more impressive.  His 24 points were enough to rank him second in the league among defenders, trailing only David Runblad.  He has experience playing the point on the power play, though let us not put the pressure of him being the power play quarterback/savior just yet.
The combination of the talent Erixon brings to the Rangers defensive corps and the flexibility he gives to the front office to make complimentary moves to secure more offense only strengthens and quickens the organization in the short and long term.  This move only continues the movement to younger players as the foundation of this team and the more talent you can add, at any position, the better you will be for it. 
Also, do not discount the impact that number of young players/rookies getting their chance to show what they can do at the NHL level with Erixon wanting to come here when he was concerned with that fact in Calgary.