Glen Sather and Scott Howson have been playing a game of chicken since the calendar turned to 2012. The man desperate to upgrade his team versus the man desperate to get a king’s ransom for his team’s biggest asset. Which one would blink first?
After the mass hysteria of trade speculation that the Columbus Blue Jackets were seeking players like Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh for the face of their franchise back in February as the deadline neared and in the last two weeks as Derek Stepan’s name popped up in rumors, it was Howson who finally swerved off the side of the road to avoid a head-on collision today.
The Blue Jackets and the Rangers pulled off a blockbuster deal that sends Rick Nash, along with a minor-league defenseman (Steve Delisle) and a conditional 3rd round draft pick to Broadway in exchange for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick.
Dubinsky had signed a 4-year, $16.8 million deal last offseason, and struggled mightily in 2011-12, scoring an NHL career-low 10 goals in 77 games. Dubinsky is an effective penalty killer and is willing get into those dirty areas and in general be a pain in the behind – things that don’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet. Unfortunately though, costing a team almost $4 million just to be gritty and not put up numbers on a team starved for goals all but punched his ticket out of town. Anisimov is slated to be an RFA in 2013 and will make $1.875 million this coming season. Early in 2011-12, Anisimov seemed to be a more confident player (who can forget his rifle shot goal celebration that set off a melee with the Tampa Bay Lightning – captured by HBO for perpetuity), but once again, inconsistencies crept up into his game. Some nights, he made his presence known; others, you’d never notice his 6’4″, 212-pound body out on the ice.
The biggest wild card heading the the Western Conference is Tim Erixon, whom the Rangers acquired from the Calgary Flames right before draft day 2011 in exchange for Roman Horak. Erixon began 2011-12 with the Rangers, dressing in all 7 games of the season-opening road trip and the first 2 home games before being sent to the AHL. He went on to play 4 games with them in December and 5 in March. With the top-four defensemen pretty much set, Stu Bickel re-signed, Anton Stralman heading for salary arbitration on July 31st and Michael Sauer waiting in the wings as he recovers from post-concussion syndrome, it may have been difficult for the 21-year-old to not only earn a spot, but receive adequate time at the NHL level to properly develop. A few years from now, the Rangers very may well regret letting him get away if he becomes the kind of defenseman some expect he will become. At this immediate point in time though, he was an asset they could afford to let go.
In Nash, the Rangers get the power forward they desperately needed even before they found out Marian Gaborik would miss the start of the season due to shoulder surgery. He’s won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004 and has been a 5-time All-Star. Nash has hit the 40-goal plateau twice and the 30-goal mark five times, despite being surrounded by a cast that only reached the playoffs once in his nine years.
Last season, the Rangers opened up the season with these as their top-6 forwards (based on the way the top 2 lines were set in the lineup): Dubinsky-Richards-Gaborik and Fedotenko-Anisimov-Callahan. Right now having Richards, Gaborik, Nash, Stepan, Kreider and Callahan or Hagelin potentially making up the top 2 lines seems more appealing, especially with the moves some of their Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division rivals have made this offseason, no?
While waiting for the drama to play out, the New York Rangers made multiple minor free agent moves. After signing Arron Asham (2 years, $1 million cap hit per year) and Micheal Haley (likely to go to the AHL, but 2 years, $600,000.00 cap hit per year) on day 1 of free agency, the Rangers added Taylor Pyatt (2 years, $1.55 million cap hit per year) on July 3rd. This past Tuesday, the Rangers signed Jeff Halpern to a 1-year, $700,000.00 deal. The 36-year-old veteran should help to bolster the Blueshirts in the faceoff circle, an area they were lacking last season. They also added defensemen Logan Pyett and Sean Collins (both 1 year, $600,000.00) and forward Brandon Segal (reportedly 1 year, $550,000.00).
Glen Sather, normally being lambasted for spending the way so many other NHL general managers have for average talent this offseason, is left looking like a genius. Moving Dubinsky (slated to be a $4.2 million cap hit and Anisimov ($1.875 million cap hit) makes absorbing Nash’s $7.8 million hit more palatable. The smaller, less pricey free agent moves gives the Rangers depth and leaves just over $13 million in cap space (under the tentative $70.2 million ceiling for next year that the teams are working under right now) should they wish to continue pursuing Shane Doan and that shiny trophy the Los Angeles Kings are parading all over the world.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927