The New York Rangers were expected to be among the teams fighting for the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season, but through 31 games, they now find themselves in an intense battle just to make the playoffs.
Sunday's shootout loss to the Washington Capitals kept the Rangers in eighth place in the East standings with a one-point lead over the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes and two points ahead of the Capitals.
General Manager Glen Sather has several needs and weaknesses to address before the April 3 trade deadline, including:
- Scoring depth
- A veteran winger with grit and offensive skill for the third line
- A top-four defenseman
- A powerplay quarterback
Let's recap all the latest trade rumors and speculation involving the Rangers leading up to the deadline, and be sure to check back to this article on a daily basis for the latest news and reports.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs. All salary information courtesy of Capgeek.
UPDATE: Friday, March 29 at 9:20 a.m. ET
There have been no new reports involving Gaborik and trade speculation since this article was first published. His salary cap hit of $7.5 million and recent struggles offensively (two goals in last 20 games) have not helped increase his value leading up to the April 3 trade deadline.
Since the Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot, don't expect general manager Glen Sather to trade his star winger.
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The New York Rangers will likely consider moving a number of different players to bolster their depth and talent before the trade deadline, and one player who has been involved in recent reports and speculation is top-line winger Marian Gaborik, who is the team's most skilled offensive player.
TSN's Darren Dreger recently talked about the Gaborik rumors during an appearance on NHL Network:
Marian Gaborik's name of the New York Rangers has surfaced, not that the Rangers are trying to push this guy out the door. They know that seven times in his career he's scored 30 or more goals, so he's a key component offensively.
But they are getting calls on Marian Gaborik. With a year left at [a $7.5 million salary cap hit] it might be surprising if he gets traded, but San Jose and the New York Rangers seem to have a lot of dialogue going.
Gaborik has not played well in 2013 and his inconsistency has resulted in John Tortorella actually putting him on the third line for a few shifts. The 31-year-old winger has scored four goals in his last 26 games, which is one reason why New York ranks 28th in goals scored and 25th in power-play success.
If the Rangers seriously consider trading Gaborik, getting another top-six forward or a point-producing offensive defenseman should be part of the return package. The Blueshirts have scored two goals or fewer in nine of their 12 games in March thus far, and cannot afford to trade their best goal scorer without getting another impressive offensive talent in return.
Since Gaborik has just one more year left on his deal, acquiring him isn't a huge risk for a playoff contender, especially since he is still in the prime of his career and capable of scoring 35-plus goals in a normal 82-game season.
UPDATE: Friday, March 29 at 9:28 a.m. ET
The Rangers still need help on the blue line, but since the ESPN.com article linked below was published, there haven't been any more reports linking New York with San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle.
It's very possible that the Rangers still have interest in Boyle, especially since they have lost three of their last four games, and failed to score more than two goals in each of those defeats. New York's offense ranks 29th in goals scored and has the 25th-ranked power-play. There's no question that Boyle would help improve the Rangers in both of those areas.
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Dan Boyle is one of the many San Jose Sharks players who could be playing for a different team after the trade deadline, and according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, the Rangers are one team targeting the 36-year-old defenseman.
The New York Rangers have been on the lookout for a top-four, right-handed defenseman and a source told me Tuesday that the Blueshirts have interest in veteran Dan Boyle from the Sharks. There’s an obvious connection there, with Rangers head coach John Tortorella having coached Boyle in Tampa Bay when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Adding an offensive defenseman to quarterback the power-play and create scoring chances would be a smart move for the Rangers, depending on what San Jose's asking price is for Boyle.
He's in the final stage of his NHL career and has only one more year remaining on his contract with a $6.66 million salary cap hit, so acquiring him wouldn't be a huge long-term commitment for New York.
With a chance to win another Stanley Cup and play in a major hockey market, going to the Rangers might rejuvenate Boyle, who has tallied 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 28 games this season.
Marc Staal's absence from the lineup has caused the Rangers blue line to be even less productive offensively than it was through the first half of the year, which makes a top-tier offensive d-man like Boyle a good target for Sather to pursue in the trade market. If the Sharks are willing to pay some of Boyle's salary, moving him shouldn't be a difficult challenge.
UPDATE: Friday, March 29 at 9:40 a.m. ET
Clowe's value has steadily declined over the last few weeks because of injury concerns and his lack of offensive production. The Sharks winger has still scored zero goals this season and is not worth a top-tier prospect and/or a first round pick.
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The Rangers need a physical forward who can also score goals, and since Kreider has not been that player this season, finding one of these guys from outside the organization is Sather's best option.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Rangers are one of several teams that could be trying to acquire San Jose Sharks forward Ryan Clowe, who is eligible to become a UFA at the end of the season.
Clowe has good hands, will drop the gloves if necessary and brings toughness/grit to the lineup along with some offensive skill.
When he's playing well, Clowe is an all-around power forward who gives 100 percent effort on every shift and performs at a high level in the playoffs (45 points in 68 career postseason games).
Clowe has averaged 20.25 goals per season over the last four years and is capable of tallying 45-60 points in a full 82-game season. He has struggled offensively in 2013, but to be fair, the entire Sharks team is struggling to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis.
As a physical winger with offensive skill and lots of playoff experience, Clowe is a perfect fit for the Rangers' third line and would address several of the team's weaknesses.
UPDATE: Friday, March 29 at 9:54 a.m. ET
The Dallas Stars are now three points behind the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and although there are no reports of any imminent deals, don't be surprised if the Stars make some moves before the trade deadline if they fall further down the standings.
Dallas cannot afford to let upcoming UFAs such as Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr leave in the summer as free agents and not get any value in return.
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If the Rangers need to find a trade partner that could offer some veteran forwards, the Dallas Stars should be the first team that Sathers calls.
Larry Brooks of The New York Post recently wrote about the Stars' situation as the trade deadline approaches.
The question isn’t whether perpetual bubble team Dallas will make rentals Jaromir Jagr (who leads the team in scoring), Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Eric Nystrom available, the question is whether the Stars will begin a meaningful overhaul by dangling Loui Eriksson?
Because if they do, the Rangers would be mighty interested.
It's hard to imagine the Stars giving up Eriksson, especially when he is one of the team's best young players and a building block for future success with superstar forward Jamie Benn. Eriksson, 27, is one of the league's most underrated players and an elite defensive forward. He would certainly be a great fit in New York, but the asking price would likely be very high.
Roy and Jagr are upcoming UFAs and it wouldn't be surprising if one or both were moved before the deadline if contract talks go nowhere (if Dallas plans to re-sign them).
Roy would be a great second or third line center in New York with his excellent playmaking ability. Jagr would bring some much-needed goal scoring to the Rangers lineup and could play on any of the top three lines while also upgrading the power-play.
Morrow's grit, toughness, leadership, playoff experience and offensive skill made him a good trade target for the Rangers, but he was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.
UPDATE: Friday, March 29 at 10:00 a.m. ET
The Rangers have completed the signing (via ESPN's Katie Strang) of Mats Zuccarello, who will bring a lot of speed and offensive skill to the team's offense, which ranks 29th in goals scored.
#NYR Rangers officially announce signing of Mats Zuccarello, who is now with team in OTT. Deal is for rest of season, $700 k (pro-rated)— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) March 28, 2013
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If the Rangers are unable to find a forward on the trade market who can add scoring depth and offensive skill to the top-nine, the return of Mats Zuccarello could be the team's major addition before the deadline.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Zuccarello could be heading to New York in the near future if a few more things are worked out.
All is that is holding up Mats Zuccarello's return to NYR is paperwork/releases from KHL team/federations. He has deal in place to return.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 25, 2013
Zuccarello, 25, has played in 52 career NHL games (all with New York) with eight goals and 18 assists. The Norwegian forward has spent the 2012-13 season in Russia playing for KHL club Magnitogorsk Metallurg, where he played very well with 11 goals and 17 assists in 44 games.
Zuccarello would bring a lot of speed and playmaking ability to the Rangers lineup, and he is capable of playing in any of the team's top-three lines. He also has a good two-way game and would be able to produce offensively in John Tortorella's defense-first style of play.
The Rangers don't have a lot of depth at left wing, and Chris Kreider's struggles at the NHL level this season have not helped the team's scoring production from this position. Zuccarello would strengthen the team's depth at left wing and give New York another highly skilled forward for its struggling power play.