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Jeff Gorton Has No Short-Term Defensive Solution

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NHL: Calgary Flames at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

If you would like to exist in a world of reality then let’s make something clear: The New York Rangers are Stanley Cup hopefuls, not Stanley Cup contenders.

The difference between the two is enormous.

Now, since we’re in that world of reality, the NHL Trade Deadline is something of a terrifying checkpoint. Last year Jeff Gorton pushed through a highly regrettable, see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away Eric Staal trade. At the time I praised Staal as the right move to make IF one was going to make a move; although it should be noted this came after I begged the team to do nothing at the deadline.

Sometimes you simply need to read the writing on the wall. For example: This year the Rangers defense is nowhere close to being good enough to make the Rangers true Stanley Cup contenders — and that’s OK! I mean, it could have been avoided, but whatever, we’re here now so we need to move forward.

That means there’s two logical roads to travel down when it comes to the trade deadline:

  1. Do nothing and allow the chips to fall as they may and then re-group over the summer (in other words: gunning for Kevin Shattenkirk, ridding yourself of Dan Girardi’s contract via buyout and trying to trade Kevin Klein).
  2. Make smart, long-term moves at the deadline as “soft sellers.”

The first one is simple enough, so let’s fly past it and get on the meat of the second idea.

When I first wrote about trading Michael Grabner people were ... upset. The story generated more Facebook comments than I’ve seen in a long time and at least 80% of them wanted me bloodied for even thinking about it.

Think with your head, I say. Not with your heart.

Regardless, that’s not really the point. The point is that there’s no short-term solution for the Rangers at the trade deadline.

I think it would be very wise for the Rangers to dangle Grabner to see if they can’t coax a contender out of top picks and prospects, or use him in a package to get long-term defensive help (think Dougie Hamilton, Shattenkirk or even Jacob Trouba). Grabner is a great example of a guy who will probably fall off a cliff in terms of scoring (he’s shooting 9% higher than his career average) and they might as well sell high. Regardless, it’s easy enough to see that Gorton and company won’t be thinking outside the box in that regard.

With that said, there’s no real defensive solutions (short term solutions that is) worth exploring at the deadline. Rentals like Cody Franson won’t take away Dan Girardi’s top pairing minutes, might (key word) take away Kevin Klein’s top four minutes. Ideally it would remove Klein altogether, but who knows at this point.

That doesn’t really change anything, though. The Rangers defense is a big problem -- and more importantly, would be easily exposed through a seven-game series. Continuing to spend precious assets (especially if the Rangers won’t recoup them with opportunities thrust into their lap) on rentals for no real return isn’t helping the case.

There’s been talk about the Rangers needing a guy like Jarome Iginla (I almost don’t think I need to go into why adding another forward would be an enormous error) or Shane Doan (who is likely on the move). Forwards aren’t the issue, and if last year’s Staal acquisition wasn’t enough of a warning then it’s likely you and I will never see eye to eye so let’s move on.

The point is simply that Gorton might have better options this summer than he will at the trade deadline — especially if he’s not going to explore selling some of the assets he might lose anyway in expansion.

Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.

This feels like one of those times.