Rangers Analysis: McCabe a Key Piece to Rangers' Playoff Puzzle
On Saturday the New York Rangers acquired 35-year-old defenseman Bryan McCabe from the Florida Panthers. The veteran blue-liner was a target of GM Glen Sather's for at least a month leading up to the deadline, as he felt the Blueshirts' young and inexperienced defensive corps was lacking something - something that McCabe would instantly add to the lineup and help this team in their push to the playoffs. The move was not necessary and I think I have made that quite clear over the past few days. However, Sather obviously wants more out of this season than just youth development. He wants to do some damage in the playoffs and he wants to make a run for it all. McCabe is one step forward in that direction.
Before being traded to the Rangers, McCabe played 48 games with the Florida Panthers this season. In that time he recorded five goals and seventeen assists for a total of 22 points, and also was a plus-3 rating. He averaged between 21 and 22 minutes of ice time per game with the Panthers, which is about what Ryan McDonagh is getting now-a-days on the Rangers. I make that comparison because it likely means McCabe will assume a spot on the second defensive pairing here in New York. Factor in some time on the powerplay and Bryan may even see his minutes go up while playing under head coach John Tortorella.
McCabe is essentially a rental, as his current contract will expire this coming July when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He actually began his career as a member of the New York Islanders in the mid-90s, and over the years has made his way to the Canucks, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, and Panthers. But for now he will call New York home for the time being, and hopefully he will make the stay worthwhile.
One part of his game that has been a mainstay on all of the teams listed above has been leadership. In fact, he was named captain of the Florida Panthers after only his first season there. He was well respected by the younger players and was looked upon as a role model and a mentor. In addition to adding other things to this Rangers lineup - which we will get to in a minute - he is going to be a great guy to have around in the locker room for players like Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer. I wouldn't even be surprised if Marc Staal and Dan Girardi quickly develop a bonding relationship with Bryan as well.
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Now to discuss how McCabe will contribute on the ice.First and foremost, coach Tortorella is most definitely going to use the Ontario native at the point on the powerplay. That's one of the aforementioned things that Glen Sather felt was lacking on this team, but McCabe will in fact be a threat with the man advantage. He has a hard shot that he knows how to get to the net through traffic, and based on the high number of assists he's tallied throughout his career, I think it's safe to say he knows how to move the puck around on the powerplay as well. Of course he will have to adjust to "Tortorella's powerplay", but the foundation skill is already there.
That's another positive about McCabe; he will not have to be taught much at all. See with guys like McDonagh and Sauer, being that they are in their rookie year, there is a lot of coaching going on during practice and even during games. That will not have to be the case for McCabe, as he will simply be expected to go out there and perform. I know he hasn't played a single game with the Rangers just yet, but the expectations will be extremely high from day one, which will most likely be this afternoon versus the Lightning.
As far as McCabe's play in the defensive zone goes, he is no Nik Lidstrom or Chris Pronger, that's for sure. At the same time, though, he is not going to be costing the Rangers goals either. He will get the job done in front of Henrik Lundqvist just fine, and that of course is in addition to contributing offensively as well. What I like about McCabe is that he plays with grit and with his heart on his sleeve. He'll protect Lundqvist and will even drop the gloves if he has to. In my opinion, you can never have enough of those types of players on one team.
Taking all of this into consideration, getting McCabe for Tim Kennedy and a third-round draft pick was an absolute steal by Glen Sather. Bryan will make this team stronger than they already are in more than just one area of the game. He's going to be a key asset in the Rangers' push towards the playoffs, and quite honestly, out of all the options out there to fill that role, he was probably the Blueshirts' best considering the cost. Hats off to Glen on this one.
Something tells me that Sather is not quite done just yet, though. As I said in the opening paragraph, the general manager has made it clear he wants to go far in the playoffs based on this acquisition alone, but McCabe only quenches one of the Rangers' many thirsts. There's still that high-scoring centerman that has yet to be brought here to New York, and with $3.8 million in cap room to play with after this trade, Sather is going to pursue all options before 3 p.m. on Monday.