This debate has opened up on a few different threads, and a few other sites, but I thought it's time we tackle it head on here.
The Rangers have made a few acquisitions at the position, trading a 3rd round pick in next year's draft to Los Angeles for Brian Boyle, and signing free agent Tyler Arnason from the Avalanche, but they seem to be mostly 4th line spare parts, or Hartford bound. Chris Drury is apparently (and appropriately) ensconced as the number two center.
We're all anxiously awaiting to hear when Brandon Dubinsky is going to be re-signed, and although I don't think anyone is truly worried that it won't happen, I think it can be said we're all wondering why it's taking so long.
The questions that surround Dubinsky are: When he signs, is he the number one center, and is he capable?
If you look at Brandon's career, the numbers and his ability before making it to the Ranger roster would seem to support the argument. Brandon does have playmaker ability, his assist numbers throughout his career have been solid, especially considering his third line status for much of his Ranger tenure, and for all the talk about Drury's face-off ability, it's Dubinsky that led the team in most face-off related categories.
It's that "third line status" that has many concerned, however. It's asking a lot of a player to make the jump from a third line grinder to anchoring your top line with a brand-spanking-new $35M winger.
A few names have been tossed around as possible targets for the Rangers, guys like Patrick Marleau from the Sharks, and Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars. Making this kind of trade would be a mistake. You are looking at players who are going to cost a bucket of money and at least a few of the prospect cards the Rangers have in their hand. A team looking to deal its number one center to the Rangers would probably also be looking for a Dubinsky or Callahan in return.
Plus, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are staring free agency right in the face, and while a lot can happen in a year, and it is easy to say "worry about 2010 when it gets here", it would be very short-sighted of the Rangers to further strangulate their cap space this season with the large contracts that already exist on this team.
The Rangers will be best served, in the long and short run, to sign Dubinsky, and give him every opportunity to succeed. If he falters as the first line center, the Rangers will have opportunities to make deals during the season as the league separates between haves and have-nots.