New York Rangers

Column: Rangers Trying to Fix Past Mistakes at Trade Deadline

While the majority of NHL teams will spend the trade deadline trying to build upon cohesive “five year plans”, the New York Rangers will be attempting to undo their own mistakes.

Last trade deadline the Rangers acquired Keith Yandle, but traded away Anthony Duclair and a first round draft pick. Thus, the Rangers continued their habit of giving up valuable assets for a “win now” mentality, all while creating holes in the lineup they couldn’t fill. It happened again over the summer when the Rangers traded Carl Hagelin to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem, who they would eventually move to the Vancouver Canucks for Nicklas Jensen.

With the Yandle deal, the team acted like it was the final piece in a championship puzzle. Perhaps Yandle still can make that difference, but he has received sixth defenseman minutes, second power play unit time, and little-to-no shorthanded time with New York. For a player that was acquired to represent the puzzle being completed, Yandle has been used like a stock depth player.

An even larger problem with the Yandle trade isn’t how he has been used, but the thinking behind the deal, and the package sent to Arizona.

Yandle was not a necessity for the Rangers, who were well aware that they had Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Matt Hunwick, and John Moore on the left side and Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein, and Dylan McIlrath on the right side. The Rangers had too many defenseman if anything, with the enormous deals handed out to Girardi and Staal over the past two seasons.

Perhaps if New York moved one of Girardi or Staal, a trade for Yandle would have made sense, or if the team had firm plans to play him on the top pair. But they didn’t, and now the deal looks like a massive miscue, especially considering how much Duclair has blossomed this year.

For a two year “rental”, the Rangers moved a top six winger that could have contributed as early as this season and a potential prospect in the first round pick. The Rangers’ greatest problems this season lie in the production of the top nine forwards, the deployment of the defense, the struggles of the power play, and the lack of prospect development. Just as he is in Arizona, Duclair could have been a valuable addition to the Rangers’ top nine, scoring much needed goals, and helping on the man advantage.

Depth is key part of any winning squad, and the sacrifice made to bring Yandle on board hasn’t yet been justified.

Another transaction that appeared understandable at the time but has since been soured, was the trade of Carl Hagelin. A move caused by salary cap implications, New York attempted to get ahead of the trade market by moving Hagelin on draft day. The Rangers received Emerson Etem and swapped 2nd round picks with the Ducks, a package that favored the Californian team at the time and has become even more lopsided.

For a team trying to compete both immediately and for years to come, New York once again ignored the importance of Hagelin’s depth production. Etem never even came close to replacing Hagelin in the top nine and penalty kill units, and the Rangers saw their penalty kill drop from 6th in the NHL to 26th. In the top nine, the Rangers have rotated forwards throughout the season trying to create chemistry, seemingly missing the consistency of Hagelin’s play.

Much like Yandle, Emerson Etem, received little playing time and even was a frequent healthy scratch, as Vigneault never seemed to like his game. Etem was afforded only 19 games in New York before being moved for AHL forward Nicklas Jensen of the Vancouver Canucks. The move essentially changed the Hagelin deal from reliable, top nine, penalty-killing forward Carl Hagelin for AHL forward Nicklas Jensen for the Rangers.

While the salary cap is a harsh mistress, if an organization rids itself of all their depth players in an attempt to manage it, they’ll find themselves floundering. Trading Dan Girardi or Marc Staal once Keith Yandle was with the organization would have allowed the Rangers to keep Hagelin and work on improving their top six, while improving their defense in the process. Instead, New York shot themselves in the foot, and created another hole in the top nine.

Now the Rangers find themselves looking for someone with a Hagelin-like penalty killing prowess and someone with a Duclair-like scoring touch. Emerson Etem is out of the organization and Keith Yandle is looking likely to leave when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Instead of searching for that “final piece” at the trade deadline, New York will instead be looking to fix their past mistakes.

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