Martin St. Louis is a New York Ranger. There's no more hemming or hawing: the deal is done. And emotions aside, the New York Rangers just got a lot better.
St. Louis' acquisition means a few things for the Rangers. The first task the 38-year-old winger will be charged with is filling Ryan Callahan's role on the second line alongside Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin. St. Louis and Richards won a Stanley Cup together in Tampa Bay in 2004, and were teammates for six-plus seasons. Richards was a rookie when St. Louis signed with Tampa Bay in 2000. The two have a very good relationship, and from a hockey perspective, St. Louis should fit in well on that second line. His speed, combined with Hagelin's, will open up a lot of ice. It will give Richards more time to operate, and do what he's best at: passing the puck.
Staggering St. Louis and Rick Nash also forces opposing teams to try to match up against the Rangers top two units. At times, the duo of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi has been split up for this same reason. Put your top two guys out against Nash, and risk a mismatch when St. Louis is out there.
Expect St. Louis to also be on the Rangers top power play unit. He's not a net-front player, and usually operates off the half-wall. The Rangers new top power play unit may looking something like St. Louis, Nash, Richards, Ryan McDonagh, and maybe Chris Kreider to occupy that space above the crease.
On the penalty kill, the Rangers have a decision to make. Callahan was an instrumental piece to that unit. It's also been a hallmark of consistency for the Rangers, with Callahan at the forefront blocking shots and clogging lanes. The Rangers certainly have a group of forwards remaining capable of killing penalties, like Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan, Nash, Hagelin, and when healthy, Derek Dorsett.
This is clearly a win-now move. St. Louis' offensive contributions dwarf what Callahan is capable of. That's not to diminish what Callahan brought to the Rangers, which is immeasurable, but St. Louis is a far superior offensive player. At age 38, he's also showed no signs of slowing down. If he plays around 100 games for the Rangers over the next season-plus, he'll likely score around 50 goals. With a cap hit of $5.625 million, it's a pretty good return on investment.
But make no mistake: This trade catapults the Rangers into the conversation of Stanley Cup contenders. St. Louis is still a top offensive talent in the league, and the expectation is the Rangers will compete for a Stanley Cup right now. With a group of young forwards on the horizon, St. Louis can most certainly provide the punch up front until one of those players, maybe a J.T. Miller, or a Danny Kristo, is ready to fill in.