New York Rangers' 5 Biggest Needs Ahead of the Trade Deadline

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIFebruary 26, 2014

New York Rangers' 5 Biggest Needs Ahead of the Trade Deadline

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The New York Rangers sit second in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.

    With the trade deadline looming, it's time to start looking at some of the biggest needs the Rangers have.

    What can they do to improve their roster? Which areas should be of increased focus? What pieces can they add to be a legitimate contender?

    We'll scour the market and look at the five biggest needs the Rangers have ahead of the March 5 deadline.

    Read on to find out.


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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The Rangers need to score more goals.

    The team averages just 2.6 goals per game, which is 18th in the league.

    Quite frankly, that's not good enough. The Rangers should not have to rely on Henrik Lundqvist to bail them out of every game.

    And with Mats Zuccarello injured, the need for scoring has become dire.

    One thing that has been bandied about has been a swap of Ryan Callahan for Martin St. Louis. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported that the Rangers approached the Tampa Bay Lightning, but general manager Steve Yzerman wasn't biting:

    Blueshirts' general manager Glen Sather has inquired about a potential swap of team captains in which pending free agent Ryan Callahan would go to the Lightning in exchange for St. Louis, but Yzerman's absolute lack of interest in dealing his leading scorer in exchange for a rental property has been made clear to the Rangers.

    Despite being 38 years old, St. Louis is still a prolific scorer. The winger has 25 goals and 31 assists this season, a gaudy 56 points in 58 games. That's also come with sniper Steven Stamkos injured, meaning defenses are focusing almost solely on St. Louis. 

    St. Louis would add instant offense and could make the Rangers really dangerous.

    If they don't get him, then they need to find a top-six winger somewhere. Increasing their goal output is crucial to their playoff success.

Sixth Defenseman

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Would the Rangers be interested in upgrading over John Moore?

    Potentially. While by no means should the Rangers get rid of Moore—he's dripping with potential—it is the case that he's not yet fully trustworthy in his own zone.

    Moore, 23, has two goals and 10 assists this year, but only averages 15 minutes a game. He's still a bit of an adventure in his own end.

    Upgrading the sixth defenseman spot for the stretch run might not be a bad idea.

    Marek Zidlicky could be an intriguing option. The New Jersey Devils are most likely going to fade, so they would be wise to get value for the veteran defenseman.

    The 37-year-old Zidlicky, originally a Rangers draft pick in 2001, has eight goals and 21 assists this year while playing nearly 22 minutes a game. He also scored two goals and added two assists for the Czech Olympic team while averaging 25 minutes and rating out as plus-two on a team that only had a .882 save percentage.

    It remains to be seen what the Rangers would have to give up for Zidlicky, but he's an excellent puck-mover with plenty of playoff experience. He averaged nearly 24 minutes of ice time for the Devils during the 2012 run to the Stanley Cup.

    Let's be clear: The Rangers should keep Moore. But if they can upgrade his position for the remainder of the season, it would be quite wise.

'Playoff Winger'

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    What's a playoff winger?

    Essentially, it's those guys who ramp up their production in the playoffs. It's those players who always seem to score timely goals. It's those players who give their all every shift, who create energy and havoc.

    Think of Maxime Talbot. Think Dan Cleary. Think Dan Paille.

    Every team needs one—or more—of these players. The Rangers do have some, led by Ryan Callahan. Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore are in this group.

    But they need more, especially if Callahan is traded. 

    One guy who comes to mind is Steve Ott. 

    The Buffalo Sabres are going nowhere, and they would be wise to get value. Ott certainly knows this.

    "I told them I want to be here," Ott told John Vogl of The Buffalo News. "We'll see where it all goes. I am professional enough to know the business side of things and what the situation is here as well. We'll see how it all plays out in the next two weeks."

    Ott has nine goals and 11 assists this year. He hasn't played in the playoffs since the 2007-08 season, but in 18 postseason games with the Dallas Stars, Ott scored twice and had an assist.

    But his value goes beyond that. It's in blocking shots, forechecking and killing penalties. 

    Ott would probably cost a prospect or two, but he's the type of player who makes a good team better.

Secondary Scoring

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    I wrote about scoring a few slides back, but there's a difference between scoring and secondary scoring.

    Secondary scoring means you're getting good production out of your bottom-six forwards.

    The Rangers' bottom six—Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Derek Dorsett/Daniel Carcillo, Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle—have combined for 51 goals.

    But they would certainly benefit from more.

    One name that comes to mind is Brad Boyes, who has 15 goals and 11 assists for the Florida Panthers. While in the top six for the Panthers, Boyes could fill in as a third- or fourth-liner and provide instant offense off the bench. 

    It's all about having options, being able to mix and match as the regular season—and playoffs—go on. Adding someone like Boyes would prove to be valuable.

Defensive Depth

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Remember when the Rangers had to insert Roman Hamrlik into the lineup last season against the Boston Bruins?

    And remember how bad he was?

    Yeah, the Rangers don't want to find themselves in that position again. Justin Falk is a nice player, but he's not exactly trustworthy in his own end—plus he has only played in four postseason games.

    The Rangers need a veteran who can step in at a moment's notice and can hold his own. 

    One name to keep an eye on is Derek Morris. The Phoenix Coyotes are still in the playoff hunt, albeit just barely, so they may want to move Morris before he hits the free-agent market. Morris, who played well in a half-season with the Rangers in 2009, has plenty of playoff experience, including averaging 22 minutes a game in the Coyotes' run to the Western Conference Finals in the 2011-12 season.

    He can still play, too. Morris is averaging 20 minutes a game this season and is an impressive plus-eight.

    Morris would add stability and experience to the blue line and represents a much better option than Falk.