Well that NHL Trade Deadline sure was ... something.
On the podcast last night I mentioned it had to be the most boring deadline of my life. The bigger moves happened the two days leading up, but overall there wasn’t activity in the league. A lot of teams that stood pat were somewhat shocking(Anaheim the biggest of them all).
The Rangers were one of the teams that made their moves early. After Washington landed the biggest fish in the pond with their trade for Kevin Shattenkirk; Jeff Gorton made his own move for Brendan Smith.
I supported the idea of Gorton sitting on the sidelines for Shattenkrik. In the same ideology of Brad Richards a few years ago, why pay for something you can have for “free” in July? It doesn’t make sense.
I also support (to an extent) the amount Gorton had to pay to get Smith -- so long as he’s a long-term addition to the blue line.
However, I do think the Washington trade of Shattenkirk should have altered the Rangers’ direction a bit. Was Smith necessary when it’s clear he alone probably won’t be enough to overcome the powerhouses in the east? Was it smart to sit on assets who could have recouped picks and/or prospects and are going to sit anyway (Kevin Klein, Nick Holden and Adam Clendening)?
With Smith’s acquisition and subsequent lack of move on defense, two of the following will have to sit every night when everyone is healthy: Dan Girardi, Brady Skjei, Clendening, Holden and Skjei.
We all know Girardi is never going to sit when healthy. We also know (hope, really, but I think we can say know) that Vigneault would not sit Skjei (or take away his reps — but there’s less of a know on this aspect).
Clendening, despite pairing with Skjei to put up some of the best numbers on the team in terms of possession, SC% and GF%, will sit because that’s the way Vigneault operates. More than likely, Klein will sit with him (or rotate in for Holden).
Is it possible Gorton wanted to keep eight defenseman for the playoff run? Yes, and even if that wasn’t his real intention I’m sure this will be what’s released publicly because it does make sense.
But if Gorton knew he was not going to sell off depth for assets, then I’m not sure why Smith was needed in the first place. As I said above, if this is a “try before you buy” phase to keep Smith around then it does make sense, but not moving anyone else out is sort of a mismanagement of what he had in front of him.
That does paint things with a broad stoke, though. As Hockey Stat Miner pointed out on the podcast last night: What if the only thing teams were offering for Klein was a 7th round pick?
I thought on it, and responded that I probably would have waited until the summer then. For better or worse -- since it doesn’t get much worse than a 7th round pick.
So perhaps that’s what Gorton was dealing with. Perhaps the market changed and he wanted to see what happened this summer. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
It leaves the Rangers hanging in the wind a bit this year, but it might make them better long term. So be it.
Jeff Gorton’s final judgement lives on in mystery another few months.