The New York Rangers might have gotten about a day to relax from when their season ended to when names started flying around with potential trade or UFA targets. As it always is in a big market, the Rangers are linked to just about everyone. As it stands now, there are three players the Rangers are supposedly linked to or can be linked to. These are their situations:
Quick note, all of these situations are hinged on whether or not the Rangers buy out Brad Richards. As we've spoken about before; the buyout is happening, it just hasn't happened yet.
Player: Joe Thornton
Status: About to enter a three-year, $6.75-million per year contract.
The Why: After the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings (vomit) the Sharks' brass wanted changes. Rumors surfaced that both Thornton and Patrick Marleau were on the trading block. The team wants to move in a new direction and they want to revamp their defense while doing a minor rebuild.
The How: Well, this is where it gets a little complicated. Thornton has a no movement clause in this new contract, so he has complete control about where he goes. And while there are some parallels to the Martin St. Louis or Rick Nash situation, this one is a little different. Both Nash and St. Louis wanted out of their respective clubs to come to New York; while in this case Thornton is being asked to be moved and he has control about where. This takes some of the leverage out of Doug Wilson's hands.
The Cost and Level of Interest: Thornton is 34 years old, which might be seen as a detriment, but he's shown no signs of slowing down. Last year he had 76 points (65 assists!) in 82 games. The past five years combined he's scored 352 points in 371 games. He has had tons of chemistry and success with Nash Internationally and his acquisition would make the Rangers top scorers (Nash, St. Louis and Chris Kreider) that much more dangerous.
The playoff choking narrative is a dumb one (he has 100 points in 132 playoff games) and he's a big player with tons of experience. His hockey IQ and his vision is close to the top of the game, and he's a guy who can help the Rangers in every situation.
The problem is what it will take to get him. If defense is actually a direction the Sharks are moving in the Rangers don't have much to offer. Or maybe they don't have much they can offer. I wouldn't move prospect Brady Skjei and I wouldn't move John Moore. I don't think it makes sense to trade Marc Staal at all -- especially with Anton Stralman seemingly on the way out -- and Dan Girardi (who has a NMC) isn't going anywhere.
So defensively who does that leave? Dylan McIlrath and Conor Allen are two prospects who probably have some value to San Jose. And the Rangers might be more willing to move one of them since Skjei is coming soon and Mat Bodie is also in the fold. Will that be enough? Maybe. Maybe not. This one is tricky.
Player: Jason Spezza
Status: Has one year left on his contract worth a $7-million cap hit.
The Why: Spezza requested a trade this summer. This is something that's been brewing in Ottawa for a long time, and it finally reached a head this summer. General Manager Bryan Murray recently told the media Spezza wanted out because "he feels he gets blamed too often when the team doesn't win." That's serious. No part of that is a joke.
The How: This is another situation where the Rangers would need to acquire a player via trade. This one, unlike Thornton's situation, is player-caused, however. Typically, this means the general manager has more leverage, but Spezza has just one year left on his current contract and he has a 10-team no-trade list. The Rangers are reportedly not on his list, so they can be a landing spot.
The Cost and Level of Interest: I'm not sure how to feel about this one. Spezza just turned 31 a week ago and is in the final year of his contract. That's both good and bad. It's good because it does allow the Rangers some financial security if things don't work out. It's bad because if things do work out, he's probably going to demand a massive salary to avoid free agency next year. This trade needs to be looked at through the lens of a rental, and I'm not sure how much sense that makes for the Rangers.
My gut tells me to stay the Hell away from him. If Murray's comments are true -- and to be fair we don't know how true they are -- that mentality won't work in New York. If Spezza thinks the spotlight is hot in Ottawa, he's liable to be lit on fire in New York if things go sour.
He's a very good player, there's no argument against that, but there are other aspects to him I'm not fond of. The biggest one being his cost, which will probably be somewhat gigantic since he's the current (second) face of the franchise and the captain. The longer it drags on the less Ottawa will get for him, but the Rangers have learned their lesson about trading a lot of depth for a single player. I don't know if I see this working out at all.
Player: Paul Stastny
Status: Pending UFA assuming he isn't re-signed by the Colorado Avalanche.
The Why: Stastny is a free agent this year.
The How: There has been an effort to re-sign him, I believe, but I'm not sure how aggressive Colorado has been. It's quite clear that Stastny is walking towards the door of free agency and the Avalanche have a bigger problem on their hands with the Ryan O'Reilly situation.
The Cost and Level of Interest: Stastny is the most attractive option of the three from the standpoint of being "for free." Since he's an UFA the Rangers won't have to give up any assets for him, just cap space. Which leads us to the problem: His pending contract. Stastny is a very, very good player who is going to want a seven-year (max length) deal for a lot of money. The last part will be determined by the market, but it wouldn't shock me if he got north of $8-million a year.
The Richards' buyout would save the team $6.66-million against the cap. Both Thornton and Spezza would cost a little more money from the Rangers' cap space to cover their contracts. Stastny at $8-million a year would take $1.4-million away from the Rangers in terms of internal housekeeping. Derick Brassard, Kreider, Moore and Mats Zuccarello are all restricted free agents this summer. Benoit Pouliot, Stralman (might be gone), Brian Boyle (probably leaving), Dominic Moore, Dan Carcillo and Raphael Diaz are all unrestricted free agents who might be brought back. The Rangers might not have the ability to bring in Stastny and keep their core. So isn't that just as bad as trading away for someone?
Now, if Stastny gets a $7-million a year deal it's obviously far more manageable. That aspect will be determined by the market, which makes the situation far riskier. It's also something of a waiting game, and my guess is San Jose and Ottawa want to rid themselves of their trade targets as soon as possible so they can move on.
Overall, of the three players I think Thornton makes the most sense for the Rangers. I should note, this is all speculation. There's no reason to assume the Rangers acquire any of these players. But I did think it was worth looking into.
What are your thoughts?