Report: Rangers Keep Getting Linked To Top Four Defenseman

On the radio yesterday, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun made the following speculation:

There’s nothing really new here, and LeBrun worded this as though he had no inside information on something imminent, and was simply speculating.

It does continue to bring to the light the fact the Rangers are talking to people. These reports don’t just come out of the blue, especially from the few talking heads who seem to actually be in the know on this stuff.

To this point, the Rangers have already been associated with Cam Fowler (loosely), Jacob Trouba (far more evidence here) and potentially even other defenseman on the Ducks (again, speculation).

This brings to light a few questions. For starters, it makes Alain Vigneault’s usage of Nick Holden in the top four a little bizarre. This comment caused a big of a debate on Twitter, but if the Rangers aren’t thrilled with their top four I don’t know how both Nick Holden and Dan Girardi are in the lineup at the same time. At least the organization is admitting there’s a problem here, though.

Outside of the normal names on the block I have another thought. Reports are beginning to surface that Dougie Hamiltion’s time in Calgary might be coming to an end. If he even comes remotely close to being on the block then the Rangers need to be invested in him.

That thought brings about my second question: What do the Rangers think a top four defenseman is?

There’s a chance they believe Cam Fowler is a top four defenseman. I don’t see Fowler moving the needle at all defensively from what the Rangers have right now, even if he would add a defensive punch. I think he’s an upgrade over the bottom two defenseman on the team right now but how much of an upgrade remains to be seen.

Trouba would obviously be an enormous coup, both helping the Rangers’ offense and might immediately become their top defenseman. A Trouba-Ryan McDonagh top pairing would do wonders for this team’s lack of depth at the position, and help mitigate a lot of the issues with the rest of the group.

On the other hand, a guy like Hamilton would fix the Rangers’ lack of a true power play quarterback (especially with Adam Clendening sitting) and would help the Rangers’ transition game that they desperately need to improve. Again, this is total speculation since Hamilton isn’t even officially on the block, but if there’s even so much of a whiff of him being available Jeff Gorton needs to be first in line. And he wouldn’t be too bad in his own zone, either.

The Rangers have options to move on their end to make these things happen. J.T. Miller’s name has been thrown around for a lot of reasons. The first is that he’s young and talented and would be an improvement in most team’s top nine. The other is that he’s making $2.75-million a year — remember the Rangers have almost no money to work with when absorbing a bigger contract.

A “rumor” surfaced this weekend the Rangers are interested in moving Brady Skjei and a 1st round pick for Trouba, but the money doesn’t even remotely come close to working there. Miller’s inclusion in a deal would add some cap relief -- along with removing the 8th defenseman — although in this scenario the Rangers would only have 13 forwards so you most likely wouldn’t see another one go down.

It remains to be seen what the Rangers are going to do here. The offense is good enough that Gorton doesn’t have to panic right away, but it’s fair to say the entire team’s foundation is somewhat fragile. We have seen some improvement from Marc Staal in the top four to help steady things, but Nick Holden hasn’t been a solution and Girardi’s return pushed out Clendening — who is one of the defensive corsi leaders in the NHL — rather than Holden.

The Rangers still have work to do. That they see that is good.

What they think the answer might be is what’s scary.