Back in November I talked about the butterfly effect in a story centered around how much of a mistake it was to play Tanner Glass in favor of, ironically enough, Anthony Duclair. From that story:
The butterfly effect is a very cool theory. Essentially, it's the hypothesis that our environment is so sensitive that very small changes today might have massive ripple effects in the future. The term "butterfly effect" derives from Edward Lorenz and is explained further by our friend Wikipedia:
The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.
The point was simple: Play Duclair in the top-nine, push a player onto the fourth line (at the time it was Lee Stempniak) and then Glass will sit and the Rangers will become a four line team. It seemed so simple at the time.
By now you all know what happened. Duclair was eventually loaned to Canada for the World Juniors -- where he notched more than a point per game and won gold -- before being sent down to the QMJHL for good because somehow Alain Vigneault couldn't find a place for him on Broadway. Just a few short months later, Duclair has been traded to the Arizona Coyotes in a massive package for Keith Yandle.
The move was shocking to say the least, and it's clear how much value Rangers fans had placed in Duclair with the messages flying around the first moments of the trade rumors. And as much as I agree with everyone who is saying Duclair has yet to truly prove himself, I still believe he should have been on a different level than most prospects. From my review of the trade:
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.
The Rangers are a much better team today than they were yesterday, which is the point, but I also feel like this trade is Glen Sather trying to outrun his mistakes. The Dan Girardi contract being the biggest culprit of strangling the air out of the Rangers' throats in terms of the salary cap.
This is where the butterfly effect starts, and the web that is spun from there turn into what happened Sunday night and eventually led to Duclair being moved to Arizona.
It starts with the Girardi extension for six years at $5.5-million per year, which quickly transitions into the Rangers' very foolishly deciding Anton Stralman is too rich for their blood at $4.5-million and letting him walk for nothing in free agency. The result? Stralman signed with Tampa Bay and, to this point, continues to be a dominant defenseman for one of the NHL's top teams. Mistake? Absolutely.
The web continued to spin just a few days later that summer with the Rangers deciding (for, like, the 12th time) they need a power play quarterback to bolster the power play and the offense. In comes Dan Boye, on a two-year deal worth $4.5-million per. To circle back: Had the Rangers signed Stralman like they should have, Boyle would have never been able to fit in New York and the Rangers brass probably wouldn't have felt the need to upgrade their defense at the deadline.
The ripple doesn't end there, though. With Marc Staal looming as a pending UFA over the summer, and the Rangers defense in shambles thanks to an early-season injury to Boyle's hand, Sather re-signed Staal to a six-year deal worth $5.7-million per year. That deal, in a vacuum, isn't an issue; but when it's compounded with the Girardi contract it's another set of weights packed onto a team trying to keep their head above water in the salary cap.
Which brings us to March 1st when Sather made the decision he really need to upgrade the Rangers roster, especially an inconsistent power play. And because the Rangers were so close to the cap, he needed his massive move to come on the cheap, which wasn't going to be easy.
So on Saturday (according to reports) Sather broke through Don Maloney's wall by putting Duclair on the table. And Maloney kept saying no until Sather also sacrificed a 1st and 2nd round pick (and John Moore), since Sather desperately needed Maloney to eat some of Yandle's salary to make the deal work. A deal that, wouldn't have been needed if the Rangers just signed Stralman over the summer like they should have.
The point of this article isn't to attack the move itself. But the haul Arizona was able to pull from Sather feels like it's because the Rangers are out-running their mistakes rather than trying to fix them. The Rangers have serious problems on defense, in terms of both skill and salary, with Girardi. Boyle hasn't been nearly as bad as some people think he has, but he also hasn't filled the shoes Sather dropped him in when he signed. And Kevin Klein, for as great as he is, is overpaid to be a third-pairing guy -- especially when you add in the Girardi, Staal and Boyle contracts.
At some point soon (as soon as this summer, even) something has to give with the Rangers blue line. There's simply too much money tied up in players who aren't pulling their own weight. In a salary cap era -- especially one where the cap isn't really rising -- dollars are at a premium. The deals haven't all been bad -- Mats Zuccarello at $4.5-million is a steal -- but it only takes one or two apples to spoil the entire barrel. And with Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller looking for raises soon, the dollars are going to become more and more important. This should include the $1.45-million Tanner Glass is making every year.
The Rangers are a team that should absolutely compete for the Stanley Cup this year, and this move has helped them in that regard. Yandle is a rare defenseman with the ability to put up points, and he also comes in his prime, at just 28-years-old. To acquire such a player -- and to somehow make it fit under the cap AND to not have to lose a major roster player -- should be complimented and saluted. It was very savvy work from Sather. That should be noted.
But it came at a potentially very heavy price in Duclair. And if the Rangers can't lift the Stanley Cup this year or next that price might become something that haunts this team for a long time. And since the NHL Playoffs aren't an exact science, there's a lot of risk associated with this potential reward.
A risk that might not have needed to be taken if the Rangers made the right decisions in the first place last summer.