NHL Trade Deadline: The Importance Of Depth

Bruce Bennett

The New York Rangers have depth, but how much and how important is it?

The dust has finally settled on what was a shockingly explosive traded deadline on Wednesday. Promptly after being dealt to the Rangers Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard and John Moore all suited up and contributed to a New York Rangers 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We've debated the Marian Gaborik and Clowe trade a few times in the past week, but both of the moves come down to this: Depth. Yes, the Gaborik deal did more than just give the Rangers depth, but depth was a driving point behind each move Glen Sather made leading up to the deadline.

Let's take a minute to put together some line combinations post-trades:

Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Clowe - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Brian Boyle - Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Taylor Pyatt - Darroll Powe - Arron Asham

Extras: J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Derek Dorsett (injured)

Those combinations contain three lines that have legitimate scoring potential. The Rangers have true strength down the middle -- any of those three centers can swap positions -- and offense on each and every wing. The moves push Pyatt and Powe onto the fourth line, and it allows John Tortorella more options for Miller and Kreider -- if and when they return.

Look at the bottom six above. Now compare it to the Rangers bottom six before they made their moves:

Pyatt - Miller - Zuccarello

Powe - Boyle - Asham

The biggest difference? The third line center is Miller (which isn't an issue) and the other winger is Pyatt. The Rangers fourth line isn't terrible with Boyle in the middle, but Powe wasn't seeing that much even strength time as it was and that trio didn't really give Tortorella a reason to play them. The result? Tortorella was leaning on the Rangers top two lines to get things done, and it was wearing them down.

Let's take a quick look at who the Rangers were leaning on for scoring before the trade: Gaborik, Nash, Stepan, Hagelin, Callahan and Richards.

After the trade? Nash, Stepan, Hagelin, Callahan, Richards, Clowe and Brassard. You can throw Zuccarello into the "after" pile as well, since he was brought in around the trading deadline.

I'm not saying the Rangers could replace Gaborik's elite goal-scoring ability, but what I am saying is the Rangers brought in three different guys (Brassard and Clowe via trades) who can now be leaned on for some excess scoring.

When one player is leaned on for a big amount of the scoring, a slump crushes the team's overall offense. This is what happened to Gaborik and the Rangers. Now it's clear Nash is the go-to guy, but there are many other players who can help carry the load.

Why not look at the defense? Before the Gaborik trade (with Marc Staal injured):

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman

Steve Eminger - Roman Hamrlik

Extra: Matt Gilroy, Staal (injured)

After the trade:

McDonagh - Girardi

Del Zotto - Anton Stralman

Eminger - John Moore

Extras: Gilroy, Hamrlik, Staal (injured)

Plus, when Staal returns the Rangers are going to be looking at pushing Eminger out into the "Extra" category and solidifying their top four even more. Moore is expected to turn into a top-four defenseman, but right now (at 22) sitting in the bottom pairing isn't a bad thing.

Overall, the Rangers are a deeper and tougher team. Throw Kreider and Miller back into the mix and there's even more depth to the team. That's one of the goals of this move.

And as of right now, it's mission accomplished.

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