The market is soft, they said. Nothing is going to happen, then said. I wonder if there are even going to be trades at the trade deadline, they joked. BOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIINNNNGGG.
And then it happened. One of those good ol' fashioned bombshell trades that opened your eyes as wide as they could go and made you go "wait, really?" I was on the train when I saw the news and needed to re-read the tweet twice to make sure I read it right, because there's no way I saw Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen, right? It had to be Blair Jones for Ryan Johnson (enjoy that vintage reference on the house) right?
Nope. A straight-up move where I legitimately believe each general manager was thinking "holy crap I can't believe I'm doing this" as they pulled the trigger. I loved it!
Oh yeah, the Flyers also traded Vinny Lecavalier (remember him?) and Luke Schenn (not the good Schenn) to the Los Angeles Kings. But whatever. The point is that trades happened, and they ranged from sort of big to enormous.
These moves tend to force some dominoes to fall. General managers who might have had their eyes on Johansen -- and let's be honest, which team didn't want him? -- or were looking to fix their issues before the trade deadline might feel the heat. Usually a move like this opens the floodgates leading up to the trade deadline because general managers don't want to miss out on the fun.
The Rangers have bee silent publicly, but behind the scenes they have been at the very least window shopping. The Rangers are reportedly "in big time" on Jonathan Drouin and have also kicked the tires on Cam Atkinson. Both of those reports, by the way, came within a few days of each other. So maybe there is enough smoke out there to say the Rangers are very interested in doing something sooner rather than later.
This does lead me to my point, however. Both of the above rumor the Rangers to be interested in forwards. That doesn't even includes the reports linking the Rangers as a team interested in Blue Jackets prospect Kerby Rychel -- who was incidentally taken with the 1st round pick the Rangers gave Columbus for one Rick Nash.
I think if you truly boil down the Rangers play to this point in the season it's not too hard to spot the lumps. The top six has under preformed. Henrik Lundqvist looked human in December. The kids, who the Rangers expected big growing years from, haven't reached their expectations yet. The standout, though, would have to be the defensive issues. And the standouts of the standout would be Dan Girardi and Marc Staal.
For all the trade rumors that have gone around there hasn't been a single report, whisper or expectation the Rangers might be looking to upgrade their defense. And if even if the Rangers didn't want to take another defenseman back (Dylan McIlrath would be an upgrade right now and he's simply waiting in the wings) shipping out one of those heavy contracts should be a priority. For now and the future.
Granted, that might not be so easy to do. And if Gorton is trying and can't move them, then Keith Yandle might have to be moved to avoid the Rangers losing him for nothing.
There's a lot of moving pieces here, as you can see, and this should't at all be expected to be an easy endeavor for the newly-minted general manager of the New York Rangers. This isn't his mess, but it is his mess to clean up. And the difference between those two things should be stark enough to make you realize we still don't really know how much of this Gorton wanted when he was working in Glen Sather's shadow.
The other problem here is a lot of teams seem to be floating in the inevitable "gray zone" between being an expected buyer or seller at the deadline. It makes closing trades tough because some teams aren't sure what they want to part with yet as they try and figure out where they're going. The Columbus/Nashville blockbuster filled a need for one team (Nashville) and might fill a need for another (Columbus). But at the end of the day Nashville needs to go for it now and Columbus has time to work with since the playoffs look like a pipe dream. Perfect place at the perfect time.
Unless Lundqvist drags the Rangers to the Stanley Cup they are not true contenders right now. And that's not a shot at Lundqvist, who I truly believe can drag the Rangers as far as they need to go, but banking on one elite player to take you all the way doesn't make you a Cup contender. The Rangers are also not a non-playoff team. So where does Gorton go? Does he remove depth from the forwards to fix the defense? Does he dip into his very few precious top-end prospects and 1st round picks to bring in some help? Or does he try to add by subtracting and fix the issues with internal solutions?
There's a lot to digest here and no one really knows what's going to happen.
All we do know is that what Gorton does next will tell us a lot about him. It will also tell us a lot about the direction the Rangers are heading in.