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Here Are Two Moves That Make The Rangers True Contenders

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NHL: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

So the Kevin Shattenkirk stuff is sort of heating up. This week it was reported he nixed a deal with Tampa Bay because he wouldn’t sign an extension. Similar stories have surfaced from Edmonton and Arizona.

The latter two matter not to me, since they’re problem-children organizations right now that while they might have a bright future, are still a few years away.

Tampa Bay speaks volumes to me, though. Especially since the reported contract on the table was for $42-million. That tells me that this isn’t just about the money, but about where he’ll be making his money. Which, you’d think, would be good for the New York Rangers.

Last week I penned a column about how it might be a better idea for Jeff Gorton to wait, rather than to spend valuable assets on Shattenkirk.

Between then and now we’ve gotten a little more information about the asking price from St. Louis.

With this in mind let me propose something:

Say the Rangers offer St.Louis Kevin Klein, a 1st or 2nd round pick and Ryan Gropp? (I’m betting it would have to be a first, but if Klein has the value his reputation might lead one to believe, it could be enough to turn that 1st into a 2nd).

Sure, losing a 1st round pick (let’s assume the worst) would be another hit this organization’s prospect pool can’t really afford to take, but they’d also be ridding themselves of Klein, automatically making a spot for Shattenkirk in the top-four (that we even need to mention that is insane, but it is what it is) and cost the Rangers nothing in terms of roster players.

Instant defensive upgrade. Instant power play quarterback. Instantly defense to offense transition to help Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei. Boom, boom boom.

Now let’s double down on this idea.

Per a report, the Rangers are honing in on Branden Smith from Detroit. Another 28-year-old, can-play-the-right-side defenseman who should be able to be had for a mid-pick or something close.

Which would lead to this:

In the event this happens, I’d rescind my requests for Michael Grabner to be traded. That’s a team I can easily see making a deep, deep run in the playoffs and being true Stanley Cup contenders. Especially with Henrik Lundqvist back.

If you’re going to go for it when you really can’t afford to, you have to do it smartly. Sure, losing another 1st round pick is heavy, but the 2017 draft is supposed to be weak anyway. It’s the 2018 draft you want to hoard your picks for.

But Shattenkirk — who you’d assume would re-sign -- is 28. So is Smith. With Lundqvist back in form and the Rangers looking at an offense that (when they put it together) can be the most dangerous in the league, there’s a real temptation.

This would also rid the Rangers of Klein, and would relegate Dan Girardi to (at the very least) third pairing minutes or a spot in the press box. Now, we all know that Alain Vigneault is more than likely not going to do either of those things to his veteran trusted warrior, but then the burden of proof would be on the coach, not a defense that can’t handle the situation.

Maybe Gorton doesn’t want to be the one to blink first like Glen Sather did to get Martin St. Louis. Maybe he wants to whittle St. Louis down to a second round pick (the loss of Gropp, to me, is negligible). Maybe he’s just plotting things out.

Remember: RFAs who remain unsigned can be taken in expansion by Las Vegas, and their rights transfer over to the Golden Knights. UFAs can also be taken, but all Las Vegas would get is the exclusive negotiating period. Outside of that, they could lose the player for nothing.

The Rangers can easily navigate that water with both Shattenkirk and Smith. Or they could buy out Girardi (which I think is happening anyway) and then sign Shattenkirk and protect him.

One way or another, neither of these specific two moves are impacted by expansion.

Thoughts on this?