The New York Rangers made two trades leading up to the NHL trade deadline, both of which bolstered their roster for a playoff push. They addressed the issue of what to do with their captain, who was a pending unrestricted free agent. In addition, they shored up their scoring with one of the hottest players in the NHL this season. Finally, they reinforced their defense by acquiring a puck mover that the team is severely lacking.
First, let’s look at the Rangers trading away Ryan Callahan. The oft-injured winger has had an up and down season when he has managed to stay healthy. He posted 25 points in the 45 games he played for New York this season with only 11 goals scored. He never really found his groove sans a few good performances under head coach Alain Vigneault. While his leadership is a huge part of the current Rangers team, the Rangers immediately replaced what they lost.
Martin St. Louis was the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning before being acquired by the Rangers. His veteran experience and leadership will supplant all that the Rangers lost with Callahan, and New York will get other benefits as well. St. Louis is one of the top scorers in the NHL this season with 29 goals and 61 points in 63 games this season. He also has chemistry with Brad Richards, who played with him in Tampa Bay when they won the cup in 2003-04.
The Rangers sent over a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional second-round pick in 2014 that turns into a first rounder if the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Finals this postseason. This is a huge acquisition cost, even for a player the caliber of St. Louis. The Rangers are putting their hopes for playoff success in the hands of the diminutive forward and must rely on him to deliver if they want to get good value in this deal. The Rangers also acquire a second-round pick back from the Lightning if the team re-signs Callahan.
While that was the major deal the Rangers made at the trade deadline, New York also made another move. The team traded their fifth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Raphael Diaz. While fans were hoping for a different name out of Vancouver in Ryan Kesler, Diaz addresses a need for the Rangers. While he is not the biggest player and certainly doesn’t play with a physical edge, Diaz is competent with the puck and makes good outlet passes. After the team traded away Michael Del Zotto for steady Kevin Klein, the Rangers lacked a purely offensive weapon from the back end. Diaz has a good stick and will provide more reliable play than current seventh defenseman Justin Falk. Having both Diaz and Falk gives head coach Vigneault flexibility when determining his lineup and making strong match-ups based on the opponent.
The Rangers made two really good deals at the trade deadline, and general manager Glen Sather is always known for the strength of his trades. While his free agent signings have been lacking, his trades have improved the team more often than not. These two should help in the next step towards becoming a Stanley Cup contender. The team addressed two key needs: scoring depth and defensive depth. The Rangers’ top forwards are now Rick Nash, St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. With Derek Stepan and Richards down the middle, this team has more offensive options than it has since the Jaromir Jagr era. With eight NHL defensemen, the team can rest easy should an injury occur on the back end. The Rangers come out of the trade deadline not new, but definitely improved.