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The Deadline Will Speak Volumes About Jeff Gorton

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NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Due to another Spectrum incident yesterday, I missed enough of the game that I can’t do any type of coherent notes. Whatever, who wants to talk about last night anyway? The trade deadline? Now that’s where it’s at.

Today is February 27th, two and a half days before the NHL Trade Deadline comes about on March 1st at 3 p.m.

Sometimes the deals don’t come until the trade deadline. This is not one of those years. Just yesterday the Los Angeles Kings traded for Ben Bishop and the Minnesota Wild gave up a haul for Martin Hanzal. That’s after the Penguins paid a heavy price for Ron Hainsey of all people.

I mean, it’s a seller’s market. That much is for sure.

Which is exactly why the idea of trading for Kevin Shattenkirk now might not be feasible. If you need a reminder, we talked about Shattenkirk on the podcast (where I agreed that I’d rather not move assets for him now), before I turned heel last week when more information became available.

The Rangers and Shattenkirk won’t go away. And if we’re being honest here: I think Shattenkirk is a Ranger, I just don’t know whether or not it’s Wednesday or in July. The Rangers have also been linked to Brendan Smith — who would be a valuable upgrade on the right side of the defense, although wouldn’t have the impact Shattenkirk would towards moving the Rangers into contenders.

Both of them (as I linked above) might do wonders. But if the asking price for Shattenkirk is still sky high, well, Gorton would be better just moving on.

Right now the Rangers are good but not good enough.

Sure, Henrik Lundqvist is back, and sure, the offense can catch fire — but there’s enough evidence here the Rangers defense can’t handle a seven-game series against the league’s best. While Adam Clendening and Brady Skjei have done wonders together on defense, we’ve been down this road before. Alain Vigneault will replace Clendening with Kevin Klein and all will be back to his normal. It’s just the way things work.

Unless Gorton intervenes. Larry Brooks speculated it’d possible Klein has played his last game as a Ranger. But Brooks also keeps talking about how the Rangers need another top-nine forward — which is so off base it’s almost like he’s doing it simply to be different from the stats crowd.

If Gorton agreed with Brooks about moving for a top-nine forward (again) then it would speak volumes about where he stands on this team. Right now there’s plenty of evidence Gorton agrees with the statistical side of things (Brandon Pirri, for example) and he’s done great work with free agents (Derek Stepan, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast) although the work with J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes could have been better.

There’s a sort of quiet hope when it comes to Gorton. His silence this year has almost been deafening. At first I mistook it for him giving Vigneault the leash to do what he wanted (for good or ill) with judgement to come after the year. Vigneault’s contract extension ended that hypothesis, though.

You’d think there’s no way Gorton can look at this defense and be satisfied. And in fact, if you can believe the reports from the media, he’s not -- with the Rangers being linked to looking to upgrade the right side almost all year.

You can pin a lot of things on Gorton: Not making a move on defense all year or not buying out Dan Girardi last summer. But you could also say the right deal hasn’t been out there and Gorton was waiting to do so this summer. There’s always an answer, and it’s tough to judge a man on the things he hasn’t done.

Of course, this deadline will say a lot.

If, for example, Gorton does nothing; it can be looked at as him smartly folding with this hand and fixing things this summer. If Shattenkirk can be had for “free” in July then so be it. If he can also unload Klein, find a replacement-level defender and keep the offense mostly the same then he’s done good work.

If, on the other hand, St. Louis drops their price; he goes and gets Shattenkirk, grabs Smith and moves Klein/Nick Holden in the process then he’s also done good work.

If he gets a forward and that’s it? Well, at least we’ll know where he stands.

And where the Rangers future is headed, for better or worse.