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Does Brendan Smith Shed Light On Jeff Gorton’s Long Term Plans?

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NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

No notes from the game last night. You don’t want them anyway. Instead we’re in full trade deadline mode. Wooo!

The New York Rangers couldn’t sit pat. Pat of that might have been Kevin Shattenkirk going to Washington — making them late NHL favorites for the Stanley Cup. While I don’t understand Pittsburgh’s move for Ron Hainsey, they’re still one of the best teams in the East. Columbus is going to be difficult, too.

The Rangers’ path to the Stanley Cup was going to be hard before Washington added Shattenkirk. Now it feels like it’s impossible.

On Tuesday morning Adam penned an article about how Jeff Gorton and company should prioritize 2018 as their main Stanley Cup run.

Then Gorton traded for Brendan Smith -- sending Ottawa’s 2nd round pick in 2018 and the Rangers 3rd round pick this year to Detroit. The move is expensive, especially when you realize that while a major upgrade over five of the six defenseman, he doesn’t really get the Rangers all that much closer. Especially if he doesn’t replace Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein — which at this point seems likely when everyone is healthy.

All that aside, the move for Smith might have signaled some change for Gorton and company.

According to reports, Smith is looking for a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $3.75-million. For a guy who just turned 28 in February, that would lock him down until he’s 31.

And that does seem to be a priority for the Rangers as well.

Of course, keep in mind the Rangers would probably want to handle these negotiations under the table, since signing Smith would force them to have to protect him in expansion.

If this move was made with the intent of keeping Smith long term -- which looks like it might be the case — it does lessen the blow when it comes to the price.

Sure, the Rangers are spending assets on a guy they could have “for free” in July, but Smith isn’t Shattenkirk. Smith wanted to stay in Detroit, so giving him a taste of life in New York and helping the team’s run this year isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Assuming a Girardi buyout/Klein move either today or this summer, the Rangers would have taken 50% of their top four and replaced it with Shattenkirk (assuming) and Smith (if he re-signs). That’s a notable upgrade that instantly puts the Rangers in a position to contend — especially with Brady Skjei’s growth.

It also might signal the direction the Rangers are going to try and turn the ship. Older, overpaid veterans play big roles on this team thanks to lack of adjustments from the head coach. I’ve often made the analogy that Gorton has to take the gun out of Vigneault’s hands when it comes to this stuff, and that might be what Smith signifies.

If the Rangers move forward with Shattenkirk and Smith long term, they’ve not only kept together this explosive forward group (assuming there’s no trades made there today) but they’ve also completely overhauled the defense. It would be an enormous shift in power, and while it cost Henrik Lundqvist another year of his prime it at least puts the team in the right direction moving forward.

Vegas will have their say, but the risk would come to either the backup goaltender, Michael Grabner or a depth forward. There’s not much here to be worried about. (Especially if the Rangers are reserved to not seeing what Grabner would earn them on the open market).

Smith will make the Rangers better. He will fix a lot of their defensive problems (if used properly). He won’t make all that much of a difference (and this is not an attack on him, but more the big picture with how far ahead the other teams are) but he will help.

If he helps long term then this is a move worth making.