Monday, February 21, 2011

Rumor: Rangers Had Deal In Place For McCabe?

There has been a lot of talk about the Rangers and defensemen that might be available through trades.  The hot name right now is Florida’s Bryan McCabe and that talk got more intriguing today with the report from Andy Stickland on his blog at True Hockey in which he wrote that multiple sources confirmed there was a deal in place between the Rangers and the Panthers before McCabe broke his jaw.
The New York Rangers are still looking for a D-man. It will be interesting to see if they re-visit a deal that almost went down with Florida’s Bryan McCabe several weeks ago.

A broken jaw to McCabe prevented the trade from happening but multiple sources confirm a deal was in place between Florida and the Rangers. Panthers GM Dale Tallon would love to still move McCabe who will take full advantage of his no-move clause. Word is McCabe is very selective as to where he would go.
With McCabe now back in the lineup and the Rangers presumably still looking for a defenseman it is likely that these talks will be re-visited, but one has to wonder how much the other trades in the past few weeks might have changed the demands from the Panthers in order to trade McCabe away.  One must also wonder if in the wake of Gaborik’s concussion if the needs for offense might take precedence over acquiring a defenseman right now.

Rangers Should Pursue James Neal.

With just one week to go before the NHL trade deadline rumors are only going to intensify, some that will involve the New York Rangers and many that will not.  This morning there was one that does not directly involve New York that caught my eye.  Chatter has it that James Neal might be available via trade from the Dallas Stars.  If the Rangers are going to make a move, this is the kind of move they should be making.  For whatever reason this is also the kind of player the Rangers are rarely connected to in the trade market rumors, rather they are always connected to aging or over the hill veterans.
Neal, 23, would fill a need the team has had for a long time in the role of a true power forward that can score upwards of 30 goals in a season.  Last season in 78 games Neal scored 28 goals and had 27 assists.  This season he has 21 goals and 18 assists in 59 games which puts him on pace for similar numbers.  He has one year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of 2.875 million and will be a restricted free agent.
The rumor involving Neal this morning per Darren Dreger in his Dreger Report:
It's believed the Pens are willing to move defenceman Alex Goligoski for the right forward, and a trade involving Stars winger James Neal has been discussed.
The deal makes sense for both sides as Pittsburgh obviously needs offensive help with their injuries and their depth on the blueline makes Goligoski more expendable to acquire a top end power forward like Neal.  On the Dallas side Goligoski is seen as a very capable offensive defender, but he does have defensive holes in his game. 
If Neal truly is available it is a move that Glen Sather has to kick the tires on and while we do not have a player currently at Goligoski’s level, Michael Del Zotto is the one guy who has that kind of upside to intrigue the Stars with the same defensive warts.  I have repeatedly said that I am opposed to moving Del Zotto despite his struggles this season, but this is the kind of talent you consider moving him for.  Since Del Zotto is below where Goligoski is you would definitely have to add more in the way of picks/prospects whether it be another defensive prospect like Tomas Kundratek/Pavel Valentenko or a forward prospect like Evgeny Grachev.  Who knows if the Stars would even consider that to be enough.  Parting with young players is one of the hardest things to do for those that follow them closely, but when doing you have the possibility to do it for an established young player who has proven he can perform at this level sometimes you have to pull the trigger.
It is likely that the Stars would push for Ryan McDonagh to be included in the deal instead of Del Zotto, which I would not do at this point.  Neal is a huge upgrade for the team, but the loss of McDonagh would be considerable right now as he has been the Rangers best defender recently and only shows signs of getting better.  In the end the Stars and Rangers likely wont come together on a deal for Neal, but it is certainly one that Sather should be calling about.

Have Rangers Lost Their Identity?

The New York Rangers are at a crossroads right now where they must decide who they are and define what the result of this season will be.  The thing that made the Rangers first half so special was not the record or how they overcame the vast number of injuries they were plagued with.  What made the first half so special and this team different from previous Rangers clubs was that they had an identity.  This team was never going to be pretty or flashy, but they were going to outwork their opponent and by staying together with the system they would in the end find a way to get the win.  Playing that way got the Rangers out to a 29-19-3 record through 51 games despite playing undermanned and without their full complement of pieces the whole way.  Since that point, one game before the All-Star break, the Rangers have played to an abysmal 2-7-1 record that leaves them at 29-26-4 overall.  Can the Rangers regain that identity to let the original version come back out or is this who they really are deep down?
During the struggles the team has the feel of someone who has lost their way, their core if you will and they cannot seem to get back to their center.  The team does not forecheck with the same intensity or consistency.  They do not have that next man up mentality in the same way.  They do have a new hero every night in the same way they did before when things were going well.
Part of all of those things is because certainly players have hit the wall, along with others having underperformed and also the incorporation or reintegration of others back into the lineup has changed some of the mentality the team plays with.  The team seems to lack a sense of urgency right now about how important each game is.  Even worse they have an utter lack of focus.
So are the Rangers the team that was 29-19-3 or are they more the team that after going 2-7-1 is 29-26-4?
Unfortunately the answer is that they are both and neither at the same time.  This team when they play a focused game can play with any team in the NHL.  The problem is they have not gotten the memo that 60 minute efforts are what it takes to win in this league as they have built up this false sense of security that they can always rally in the third period.  That might have worked in the first half of the season, but it does not work as teams tighten up even more down the stretch while scratching and clawing for every crucial point. 
The breakdowns have been in all phases of the game and with nearly every player on the roster.  With the deadline quickly approaching and other teams making moves there is a sense of urgency for New York to make a move, but the best move they can make is trading this unfocused identity that fails to convert, takes bad penalties, loses defensive coverage, does not successfully forecheck and bringing back the other identity they had built the first 51 games.  The players were good enough then and they are good enough now, so it about playing the way they know how and with the urgency they did more than anything else.