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Thomas Vanek Would Be A Good, Cheap Solution For The New York Rangers

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Minnesota Wild v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In what’s expected to be a wild and crazy week for Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers, there’s going to a lot of moving parts that will need to be analyzed.

One of those things is whether or not the Rangers can fit Steven Stamkos under the cap — since they’re reportedly willing to give him a massive offer come July 1st. That move would have to come with a series of other moves (dare we dream?), but it needs to be repeated that Stamkos won’t actually fix anything if most of last year’s defense is churned out there with him.

Here’s the things Stamkos fixes right away:

  1. Stamkos is a more natural fit in terms of being a goal scorer who doesn’t need the puck to score. This is the exact opposite of Rick Nash, who needs to have possession to score. I talked about this on Bantering The Blueshirts this past week, but Stamkos would be a better fit with pass first guys like Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard.
  2. Stamkos is an automatic upgrade on the power play; on a level the Rangers really haven’t had in a long time.
  3. Stamkos would be harder to shut down than Rick Nash was. That’s not a knack on Nash, but with a team that had so many possession issues, Nash was an easy target for opposing defenses to suffocate when he had the puck. Stamkos — because he has an insane shot -- can float around without the puck and get the job done.

Here’s the problem: Money. Money. Money.

The rumors about the Rangers wanting to move Dan Girardi and Marc Staal probably stem from the ideology that Broadway is a likely landing spot for Stamkos. Based off what’s being reported, Gorton is going to have to shell out anywhere from $9-11-million annually to lock him up.

Not only does that require a lot of work internally (maybe even for the good) but the more moving parts you add to a situation the more complicated it gets. Plus, when you’re dealing with a contract the size of the one Stamkos is going to bring home, there’s a lot of inherent risk.

Granted, there’s some really quality arguments to be made about how Stamkos is one of those rare players you A) never see become a free agent, and B) is young enough that a max contract only takes him until he’s 33 years old. That’s a big deal, too.

Enter Thomas Vanek, the suddenly journeyman forward who not too long ago turned down a $50-million offer from the New York Islanders and was the apple of every team’s eye entering free agency. He’ll be bought out by Minnesota and will become a UFA this summer.

Vanek is a very interesting case. Often compared as someone who “doesn’t care” (total crap, but moving on), he’s a player some teams will avoid because they refuse to sift through the narratives. The Rangers, especially in their cap crunch, should not be one of those teams.

Remember the three things Stamkos solves for the Rangers right away at the top? Vanek solves one of them for sure: The power play impact.

Vanek is also a guy that doesn’t need the puck all that much to score, and he would be a really good depth option for the Rangers as some secondary scoring.

See, where Stamkos would be an immediate help in terms of primary scoring, I do see Vanek succeeding in a more secondary role. Part of the reason Benoit Pouliot was so successful in New York was because he wasn’t relied on to be any type of primary scorer. I see Vanek succeeding in a similar role.

From a possession standpoint, Vanek doesn’t exactly fix too many things. He was a 46% possession player last year, a slight drop off from where he’s averaged the past three years. That might change with some sheltered usage -- which is what he’d get on a third line with Pavel Buchnevich and Kevin Hayes — and he’d really be here to be a power play specialist.

That’s a simply solution to help an ailing power play and bottom six. Even if the Rangers don’t get Stamkos — still very much a possibility — Vanek would be a good add to help fix things.

Having been bought out of his deal with Minnesota, Vanek doesn’t need to lock down a large contract. He can easily take a cheaper deal to try and reach a contending team, and I’m sure the Rangers would be alluring option for him.

The two will never really be compared at this stage in their careers, but it would make sense for Vanek to be a consolation prize for the Rangers if they miss out on Stamokos.

Or they could try to get both.

But it would require even more movement than they’re already preparing for.