Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Should Rangers Claim Nik Zherdev, Craig Rivet Off Waivers?

The NHL waiver wire normally gets a bump in action as the trade deadline approaches as teams try to create flexibility both in salary and roster spots.  Today’s waiver action has some intriguing names in former Rangers as Nik Zherdev and Ales Kotalik along with Marek Svatos and Buffalo Sabres captain Craig Rivet. 

The most intriguing of those names from a talent standpoint is obviously Zherdev who elicits very strong opinions on both sides from Rangers fans at the mere mention of his name.  The 26-year-old winger is currently on 1 year $2 million dollar deal with Philadelphia and has 15 goals, four assists in 47 games this year.  There are certainly flaws in Zherdev’s game and questions about his commitment still linger, but for a team like New York that has a talent deficiency and is without their most talented sniper, taking a no-risk chance on Zherdev has to be intriguing. 

The frustration with Zherdev and his inconsistency is there for everyone who watched him play and that has not gone away or he would not be on the waiver wire today.  I would frame the debate slightly differently and look at the Rangers current roster and our own frustrating talent but little results player, Erik Christensen.  You ask me right now whether I take a chance on Christensen doing something productive or Zherdev and I take Zherdev every time.  People forget that in his one season here he was tied for the team scoring lead with his 58 points so it is not like he did not produce overall and certainly at a better rate than the Christensen’s we keep throwing out there now.  

The only hesitation I have on Zherdev is the way he and Tortorella related when Z was here the first time.  Zherdev’s lack of attention in the defensive zone put him in the doghouse nearly immediately and he never got out.  For that reason I do not think the Rangers will make the claim to take the risk on the talent, but I believe they should.  Seriously, the worst thing that could come from making the move is that it busts and he gets benched or waived.

The other name that might cause some interest for the Rangers is Craig Rivet.  Rivet, 36, is a 16-year NHL veteran who has seen very little playing time this season.  He has clearly fallen out of favor in Buffalo and has been a healthy scratch for the past 16 games while they have been moving to a somewhat younger defensive unit.  I am not big on Rivet as a player at this point, but he would fill the checklist for a veteran defender who could provide leadership and he wouldn’t cost any assets unlike McCabe.  

Obviously you are also not going to get the upside of McCabe, but this could be a more expensive version of last year’s Anders Eriksson move where you bring in a guy you can trust just to eat third pair minutes and help balance out the minute distribution.  In all honesty I don’t see how it is better than just playing Eminger, but for whatever reason he has clearly fallen into the doghouse with Torts, so maybe they look at Rivet.  Another low-risk gamble type move, but low reward here as well I feel.

Svatos has no interest for me as the Rangers do not need another small forward and he has never regained the form he had his first year.  Kotalik is a heck no.

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.

Marc Staal Is The Most Irreplaceable New York Ranger

Harry How/Getty Images
When Marc Staal left the Rangers bench last night and headed for the locker room with trainer Jim Ramsay every fan of this franchise held their collective breath and was praying for it to be something minor.  The initial assumption was that the injury to Marc had something to do with his brother Eric flattening him with a hit late in the second period and seeing on the replay how his head smacked off the ice and there was a whiplash type effect on his neck.  After the game, coach John Tortorella said that the injury was in fact a tweak to his knee that was sustained on the first shift of the game and got progressively worse as time went on.  We do not yet know the severity of the injury, but the coach did not believe it to be serious.
The level of reaction to the injury and fear over what it might be made me think about a question I had asked earlier in the year about which New York Ranger player is the most irreplaceable for what they bring to the team.  Unfortunately for the Rangers nearly all of the guys one would think of to fit in that category have been injured at different parts of the year for different amounts of time.  The team has been able to withstand those injuries to be in the position they are today.  For me the debate about which player is the most irreplaceable truly comes down to two options: Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal.