The New York Rangers made an enormous splash early Sunday afternoon, joining the plethora of NHL teams who decided they weren't going to wait until Monday's trade deadline to, well, make trades. In three separate deals the Rangers acquired Keith Yandle, James Sheppard and Carl Klingberg.
The major move is, of course, bringing in Yandle, a power play specialist who is in his prime. The Rangers haven't had one of those players since Brian Leetch, and it's a major organizational need; especially since Dan Boyle has been underwhelming in filling the role this year.
Going the other way? John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a 2016th conditional 1st (if the Rangers miss the playoffs in '16 the pick slides to 2017) and a 2015 2nd (at the time of this writing it's unclear if it's the Rangers or Tampa Bay's pick). Arizona eats half of Yandle's salary for both this year and next and the Rangers also get 27-year-old "prospect" Chris Summers and a 2015 4th round pick.
The obvious concern is losing Duclair. At the onset of the trade title wave -- when rumors run rampant -- Duclair was being included because the Rangers were also moving Dan Girardi and his horrible contract. That turned out to not be true, which changed the completion of the deal in its entirety.
For more on Yandle, check out the below recap from our friends over at Five For Howling:
Keith Yandle offers two big things to any team: power play points and games played. Yandle has not missed a single game since the 2009-10 season, and has two goals and 24 helpers on the power play. He is a power play quarterback in the strongest sense of the word, capable of finding players from his station at the point and moving defenders out of lanes. He's a big reason Arizona's 29th rated offense has the league's 5th best power play this season.
Of course, there are downsides. He moves the puck a lot, which means he has a tendency to commit turnovers and mistakes in particularly bad spots. Feel free to check out the #DammitYandle hashtag on Twitter to see what I mean. He's gotten much better over the past couple of seasons at being more responsible in his own end, but he still needs to play with a more defensively minded partner to be at his best.
Overall, Yandle is a very rare commodity among defensemen, and he should prove to be a valuable contributor for the Rangers this year and next. The good things he does far outweigh the bad things on almost any given night.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings on this trade. For starters, I feel the Rangers gave up an enormous haul here. I understand the value of Yandle and, more importantly, what he fixes for the Rangers; but there is a significant attachment to this deal. Duclair is a prospect of the highest order, one on the very top shelf of the cupboard in the team's farm system. To lose him (along with a 2016 1st) and to not lose a bad contract in the deal seems like a panic move. As in, the Rangers watched other teams in the Metro improve themselves and felt they needed to do something big to keep up. Which, as I've said before, I don't agree with.
And yet here we are.
The pit in my stomach is because of what Duclair can (and most likely will) become. But even with that seed of horror, there is no doubting the Rangers are a much better team today than they were before the deal was done -- which is the point of making a move in the first place.
The Duclair cost is an enormous one, and while we don't know what he'll truly become until tomorrow (which could be a year from now or even more) it's still fair to say the Rangers paid a big price to bring Yandle in. It also means the Rangers are fully entrenched in a "win now" mode, which is risky business.The risk is the playoffs are not an exact science, and the Rangers are just as likely to lose in the first round as they are to win the Stanley Cup.
I will say this: If the Rangers win a Stanley Cup this year (or next) then the deal is brilliant. And even if Duclair goes on to become a hall of famer the deal is worth it. Nobody cares about the names move in 1994 because the Rangers got their names etched on the Cup, but if the Rangers would have lost Game 7 the story would be different. That's the razors edge the Rangers are playing on right now.
After my meltdown on Twitter (which I think is totally justified about Duclair), I started thinking about the assets the Rangers still have. Yes, losing Duclair is a massive blow, but Pavel Buchnevich, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Brady Skjei are all still with the farm (in one capacity or another). And yes, Buchnevich was as high in the cupboard as Duclair was (and maybe even higher since his success came against men in the KHL). That's a significant amount of youth, skill and upside on the roster; but the loss of Duclair still stings.
The other moves, while important in terms of filling out the roster, are minor in every sense of the word. Lee Stempniak being moved didn't make sense at the time -- especially for an AHL player with two NHL games under his belt this year -- but it made enough cap room to bring in former 6th overall pick James Sheppard from San Jose for a 4th round pick. Sheppard (as compared to Stempniak) brings more defense but less offense. And for the role he is going to hopefully fill on the team -- a 4th line defensive situation sponge -- that's not a bad thing.
Klinberg is a former 2nd round pick who was unlikely to re-sign in Winnipeg. He's a 23-year-old Frolunda project who is having an OK year in the AHL, but couldn't crack the Jets roster. It remains to be seen what type of a role the Rangers see for him, especially since he needs to be signed this summer.
My final thoughts on the deal: I would have to assume the Rangers are very confident Henrik Lundqvist is going to return and be none the worse for wear, especially based off the Yandle move. The risk is, as I've already said, if you don't win a Stanley Cup with these moves you've mortgaged a massive piece of real estate in a deal you didn't have to make. And while I understand everyone saying Duclair is "unproven," in my book he's the type of prospect who should only be pried from your hands if something significant is coming back. And while Yandle is something significant, I'm not sure why the Rangers also needed to part with a 1st and a 2nd round pick to get it done. Miller should have been enough to get that deal done -- and you all know how high I am on Miller.
The Rangers will get a chance to use their new toy tonight and I am very sure he's going to make the Rangers much better. Like I said before, I truly believe they're better today than they were yesterday. And not just marginally, much, much better.
But are they good enough to win the Stanley Cup? Because that question will answer whether or not this deal haunts the Rangers for the rest of their lives.