When you think about the New York Rangers problems the past couple of years you always circle back to one major issue: The depth. For the past two years the Rangers have been ousted from the playoffs because their opponent's depth (and mainly their fourth line) has simply been better and more dominant.
Last year - before the Marian Gaborik trade - the Rangers were built like a top-heavy machine. If the bigger cogs did their work the smaller cogs wouldn't be as noticed if they under preformed. Theoretically that ideology can work and teams that employ it can be successful. But it only works when your top guns are, well, gunning. And for the Rangers last year they didn't even come close.
Two of the Rangers' three biggest weapons significantly under preformed. Gaborik scored in just five games with the Rangers all year before he was traded. Brad Richards might have had the worst year of his career and is likely being bought out this summer. Rick Nash got going and had a great year, but wasn't scoring much early. The Rangers had significant problems up top all season and as a result, the team's lack of depth was exposed night in and night out.
So when Glen Sather saw an opportunity to get some of that depth back, he pulled the trigger. Moving Gaborik was necessary; not because he wasn't good anymore, not because he couldn't get the job done and not because he wasn't a playoff performer. Sather did it to make room under the cap for the plethora of Rangers' RFAs and also to bring back some of that much-needed depth.
And did he ever.
John Moore looks like he's going to be a stud for the Rangers for years to come. He brought offense, some solid defense and some of the best skating I've ever seen, all while learning the game and the new system at 22. Derick Brassard turned into a true stud for the Rangers scoring 11 points in 13 regular season games before scoring 12 points in 12 playoff games for New York. And Derek Dorsett brings some much-needed toughness and physicality, although he did have a tendency to take bad penalties.
Sather also brought in Ryane Clowe, mainly for the playoff push and the playoffs, but that trade backfired after Clowe suffered back-to-back injuries and played in only one full playoff game. Don't forget about Mats Zuccarello, either, who was brought in right before the trade deadline.
My point? The Rangers were much, much better after all of those moves. And all of those moves brought in depth that the Rangers needed.
I fully expect Zuccarello to sign an extension with the Rangers. His speed, creativity on the power play and his power play IQ simply makes him invaluable for the organization.
And while most of you will disagree, I think the Rangers need to at least try to bring Clowe back as well. Yes, he's on the wrong side of 30 and he's not exactly fast (OK, he's pretty slow), but there are parts of his game he brings to the table that fit under a John Tortorella team. He's tough (you might not think fighting impacts the outcome of a game, but toughness sure as hell does), can add a pretty good amount of offense, crashes the net, goes into the dirty areas of the ice and is great as possessing the puck. Name another player who was as good as Clowe was down low for the Rangers? The assist he had in his one playoff game was all you need to see. He certainly has value.
The issue is getting him under contract. But if the Rangers can sign Clowe for a reasonable deal (and I'll have a story on that later) then I think they need to bring him back.
Even if they don't, though, the Rangers shouldn't be looking through the trade market and free agents for another superstar. Or another star player. The Rangers shouldn't set their sights on a Bobby Ryan (if he's available) or a Mike Ribeiro. They should be focused on adding to the depth they already have.
The Rangers don't need to make a splash, they need to continue to shore up what they have.