With Wednesday's NHL trade deadline approaching quickly, San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe emerged as one of the biggest names available. The New York Rangers decided to take a leap of faith, and while it is certainly a risk, the reward could be well worth it for the Blueshirts.
According to TSN.ca, the Rangers surrendered two second-round picks and a third-round pick for Clowe. One of the second-round picks is conditional, however. If Clowe either re-signs with the Rangers or New York wins at least two playoff series, then it remains a second. If neither of those things come to fruition, it becomes a fifth-round selection.
It can be argued that this move reeks of desperation on the Rangers' part, and on the surface that appears to be the case. New York has wallowed in mediocrity for much of the season and would barely make the playoffs if the season ended today. There is certainly no guarantee that the Rangers will make it, and if that happens, there is no doubt that they'll come out on the losing end of this trade.
Clowe has no goals this season and just 11 assists, so his campaign has been even more miserable than the Rangers'. New York has struggled mightily to score this year, so stout defense and great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist has often been wasted. There is reason to question whether or not Clowe can help them in that regard.
The law of averages suggests that a fairly accomplished scorer like Clowe is due to go on a run. That is obviously nothing more than speculative, but he does have four straight seasons with at least 17 goals to his credit, so he has a history of contributing as a secondary scorer. With top-flight offensive weapons like Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik already in place, a guy like Clowe may be just what the doctor ordered.
New York has several big-bodied wingers on the roster, and at 6'2" and 225 lbs., Clowe fits the mold that head coach John Tortorella likes. If Clowe is afforded the opportunity to skate with some skilled teammates in New York, he should be able to snap out of his season-long slump.
In a lot of ways, Clowe was stuck in a bad situation in San Jose. Secondary scoring has been nonexistent for the Sharks this season, so it hasn't just been an issue with Clowe. Outside of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, nobody has really lit the lamp for San Jose in 2013.
Clowe simply needed a change of scenery, some new linemates and perhaps a different voice in the locker room. If those factors aren't enough to make him a productive player again, then it will be abundantly clear that his struggles rest firmly on his shoulders. Based on the type of player Clowe has been throughout his career, though, the switch is bound to flip eventually.
It can't be said for sure that the Rangers won't attempt to re-sign Clowe, but this seems like a rental more than anything as Clowe's contract expires after the season. That means the Rangers will definitely have to part with second- and third-round picks. Should the other second come into play upon New York making it through two playoff rounds, that would be a small price to pay.
If the picks that New York surrenders turn into serviceable players down the line and Clowe doesn't work out, then revisionist historians will call it an awful trade. The Rangers had to measure the risk against the reward, though. There are a lot of promising young players already in the system, so it is easier for New York to part with a couple of draft picks than it might be for some other teams.
Even though the Rangers are among the fringe playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, they have the offensive firepower and goaltending necessary to make a deep run. Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins would probably rather not run into New York early in the postseason, and adding Clowe to the mix makes the Blueshirts even more dangerous.
Time will tell if the Rangers ultimately made the right decision, but with so much talent in place on the current roster, it was definitely worth a shot.
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