There's really no denying the mountain of evidence piling up before our eyes anymore: The New York Rangers probably waited too long to offload their massive contracts.
Oh there's a small glimmer of hope — the Rangers can dangle Marc Staal to anyone who falls short in the Kris Russel sweepstakes -- but it's more than likely not going to happen. The Rangers refused to swallow their pride and instead get to swallow nearly $12-million in precious cap space built into two ageing, rapidly declining defenseman.
The fallout has already happened. Keith Yandle was unceremoniously removed — with the Rangers FOR A THIRD YEAR IN A ROW not even trying to negotiate with a key free agent — for essentially table scraps. The Rangers didn't make any big splashes in free agency (not that they should have) and they have acquired just one player via trade between the Pittsburgh stomping and this writing.
I can't imagine being mostly quiet was the plan.
Yeah, Jeff Gorton did some great work to help fix a broken bottom six, but the Rangers probably had bigger ideas than what they're looking at now. With reports surfacing on the draft floor that Gorton was shopping Dan Girardi and Marc Staal it's clear the team at least recognizes them to be an issue, but that nothing materialized isn't a very good sign for future moves there.
The Rangers did part of this to themselves when they opted not to buy Girardi out this year — although there might be a secondary buyout window depending on if any of the Rangers RFAs make it to arbitration. If the Rangers are waiting until next year, well, all it does is save the team a single year of dead cap space. The dead weight that sits on the cap is almost identical, regardless of the other year burned off.
Still, moves aren't happening anywhere in the NHL landscape. Teams seem to be pretty content with where they are, and as we move closer to arbitration dates teams are more often than not looking to remove salary rather than take it on. That doesn't bode well for a Staal or Girardi move, especially since teams seem reluctant to even take a risk on Russel right now.
It also doesn't help that we've passed the unofficial July 10th deadline where more often than not bigger deals are rare to come by. The Rick Nash move to Broadway is a notable exception to this rule that happens to be closer to home, but it's still it's a rarity. The Rangers are still popping up in trade rumors but ironically Nash seems to be the name being dropped, not the defensive issues we were all hoping the Rangers would remove.
This is a serious problem for the Rangers. I've argued more times than I can link here than once the window of opportunity passes on Girardi/Staal having value to another team it will never open again.
Staal might be an exception, especially if he has a semi-bounce back year but even so his $5.7-million price tag is tough to swallow for other teams. And even so, that's a conversation for down the line, either at the trade deadline or next summer.
The Rangers are in a really tough position right now, and if they can't fix the problems they have it's probably because they waited too long to do anything about it.