The only positive outlook for the New York Rangers current injury woes is it's happening earlier rather than later. The Rangers are still without their first line center Derek Stepan for at least seven more games. To compound that, the Rangers defense hasn't looked even close to comfortable since Dan Boyle broke his hand in the first game of the season.
It's not as though the Rangers don't have options to replacing Boyle (more at even strength than on the power play); it's that none of those options are appealing. Let's look at even strength first, since that's the most immediate concern.
The Rangers have already tried to move Kevin Klein up to the second pairing -- directly replacing Boyle next to Marc Staal. The result? That pairing got their shoes blown off against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Klein himself was directly responsible for at least two of the Blue Jacket's four goals (not including the empty netter). They got better against the Maple Leafs on Sunday, but that's not saying much at all.
Here's the issue: What else can Alain Vigneault do internally? John Moore looked very uncomfortable against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. He looked better against the Blue Jackets and then better again against the Maple Leafs, yes. Did he look good enough to soak up second pairing minutes and competition? Not really.
The Rangers can't even call someone up, since the issue isn't the third pairing right now. Matt Hunwick has looked OK on the third pairing, but he's obviously nowhere near ready to step up to the second.
So what can the team do? According to Larry Brooks the Rangers are in the market for a defenseman to help mitigate the loss of Boyle. There aren't many players floating around; and unless Glen Sather wants to dip even further into the team's depleted draft pick stockpile there's not many names the Rangers are going to want to part with. Danny Kristo is probably a pretty legitimate trade piece, along with names like Marek Hrivik and Michael St. Croix -- but the honest bet is none of them have much trade value at all. Would the Rangers think about moving Oscar Lindberg, Conor Allen or Dylan McIlrath? My money is on no but you never know.
The power play is a little better than the even strength situation. Martin St. Louis and Lee Stempniak have helped man the point at different times, and neither have looked totally out of place. Ryan McDonagh can be a mainstay there, and Dan Girardi has been used as well -- probably more because he's a right handed shot than anything else.
The Rangers can get away with using a forward on the point and rotating defenseman on the other side until Boyle gets back. It's not a great option -- since Boyle's skill-set is exactly what the Rangers need on the power play -- but it's better than the even strength options.
Here's the real problem: The Rangers best option might be to just weather the storm. The prospects other teams are going to want in exchange for a top-four defenseman aren't being moved -- think Brady Skjei or Pavel Buhcnevich -- and there isn't anyone on the current lineup I can see the Rangers parting with. Plus, the Rangers don't exactly have oodles of cap space to throw around.
I talked about this in the game notes against both the Leafs and Blue Jackets, but the Rangers might just need to tread water until they start getting everyone back. If the Rangers go 5-5 in the 10 games (at least) they're without Derek Stepan and Boyle it's probably a win. Those are two very important players sidelined with injuries.
Is it a great option? No.
But it might be the only option the Rangers have.