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Rangers Can't Afford To Be Buyers This Year (Literally And Figuratively)

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The Rangers probably want to be buyers leading up to this year's trade deadline, but they can't be.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It was a Glen Sather staple. The call of the "win now" was often too much for him to resist. Even when contrary evidence stared him in the face about the state of his respective teams he couldn't help himself. Sather was always a buying GM, even when he shouldn't have been.

Whether or not Sather still has some control over what's going on in the New York Rangers front office remains to be seen. There are rumors he does and rumors that he doesn't, generally covered by conspiracy theories that come from people taking wild guesses at things.

Personally, I don't think Sather is pulling the strings. Jeff Gorton had offers to go elsewhere and didn't do so. He wouldn't have done that to be a pawn in some master Sather plan.

That's both good and bad. It's good because the Rangers desperately needed to get away from Sather's last-hurrah mentality that was badly damaging the future. Not that a "go for it" ideology should be punished -- and hindsight is 20/20 after all -- but the decision making was definitely skewed towards "at any cost because I know I'm leaving soon" and it hurt the team.

There will be the familiar pull of "go for it" surrounding the Rangers as they march up to the trade deadline. For a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, the drop off to today has been relatively dramatic. There's a legitimate concern that this team as currently constructed won't win a single playoff series, let alone return to finish the job from 2014. That's a problem. And the desire to fix that problem is probably going to be overwhelming.

And that's too bad.

The Rangers can't afford (both literally in terms of the cap and figuratively in terms of future consequences) to spend more precious draft picks and top prospects (of which there's already too few) for an aging rental player. Even if the right player hit the market -- rumor is Andrew Ladd is available -- the Rangers don't have the flexibility to make it work unless they got uncomfortable. And they have shown no willingness to get uncomfortable.

That doesn't even take into consideration the reality that the Rangers need to move enough cap space to keep all their RFAs and UFAs this summer.

Which brings me to my next point: With the Rangers situation where it currently stands, the currency used in any trades the Rangers might be looking at will most likely be players like Keith Yandle (actual rumors), Kevin Hayes (my speculation based on the perception of him as a player/treatment) or even Oscar Lindberg or Chris Kreider (my total speculation).

I understand that in 90% of moves made at the deadline "winning" and "protecting the future" are at odds with one another. I get that buying teams sacrifice their future to try and win now while selling teams do the opposite. And I get that the Rangers probably aren't going to be thrilled with the idea of throwing in the towel (in terms of buying) at the deadline while they're (mostly) comfortable in the playoff seeding.

This is when it's vital for a team to take a long, hard look in the mirror and acknowledge what they are. The Rangers are a team with too many holes to truly contend and not enough room to fix the bigger problems. Unless they're willing to get uncomfortable and force a player to waive a NMC/NTC, there's no real way to fix things that won't come at the expense of a player they shouldn't move.

Since the Rangers are imprisoned in cap hell -- and don't seem at all concerned about how to escape from it -- the young players who are cost-controlled need to be the priority. There is no excuse to move those types of players to help right now with an aging player that's going to hurt the long-term health of the team. Especially when those players are the only cushion the Rangers will have in the future when winning this window closes and they need to open another one.

The temptation to move them will be fantastic. The Rangers are rumored to be looking for a top-six winger. The cost will most likely be enormous, and the payoff will probably be minimal. Making the playoffs and hoping Henrik Lundqvist can take the team to the Cup is one thing, but to ignore that reality and not fix the problems that are actually ailing the team? That's inexcusable.

I do not disagree the Rangers can use a true shoot-first player in the top six. I don't disagree a forward like that can help fix some of the Rangers problems. The biggest issues that should be fixed first, however, would be ignored. The defense is still a problem. And if the Rangers aren't willing or able to fix it by the deadline (which might be the case) then they need to prepare to make those moves over the summer.

I'm not suggesting the Rangers blow things up (especially when they owe Arizona either this year or next year's 1st round pick), but I don't think it's a bad idea to do what they can to start fixing the problems they have. The team, quite obviously, does not believe Dan Girardi or Marc Staal are problems (as seen by consulting Girardi on the Daniel Paille signing and their continued ice time/usage). That's a bigger problem, but probably wasn't going to be fixed by the deadline anyway -- and who knows what the Rangers' lack of movement on the situation will cost if those contracts become untouchable.

The Rangers can't really make long-term shifts towards fixing their problems, either. The only players the Rangers can really move without having to jump through hoops are 1) youth they shouldn't move (think Hayes, J.T. Miller, Lindberg, etc), 2) Keith Yandle (read this), 3) depth players that have varying value (think Jesper Fast, Dominic Moore, Viktor Stalberg), 4) Kevin Klein (would have made sense in the summer but right now would be a major blow to the defensive corps) or 5) just wing it and pray someone says yes (think Tanner Glass or newly-signed Daniel Paille).

None of those players bring major cap savings (Klein would be the most expensive st $2.9-million per year) and the Rangers would be selling low on almost everyone else -- especially Yandle, who they've criminally underutilized. They could think about moving Chris Kreider to avoid those negotiations, but again, they would be selling incredibly low and giving up on him in a year where his production isn't matching his (very good) underlying numbers.

The point? None of those options are appetizing. None of those options will make the Rangers better today. And the only options that help alleviate the Rangers' cap issues make them worse tomorrow.

If the Rangers need to go to war with this group as is and then sift through the wreckage come this summer, then so be it. The cupboard is already dangerously bare. Outside of Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei, the Rangers have no other Grade-A prospects. They have a few "potential to be Grade-A" guys. Aleksi Saarela and Robin Kovacs headline that group (sorry Ryan Gropp but I'm not THAT high on you), but that's about it.

Moving any of those players in a short-term move hurts far more than it helps. This group was originally constructed because the brass though THIS group could get the job done. Obviously that hasn't been the case. Trying to fix it might do more harm than good, so it might be better to just leave things be.

Besides, Lundqvist is used to the world being piled on his shoulders.