New York Rangers Improve Defensive Depth in Raphael Diaz Deal

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IMarch 6, 2014

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 26:  Raphael Diaz #24 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena February 26, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.    Vancouver won 1-0. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The New York Rangers made a splash on deadline day when they acquired forward Martin St. Louis from the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that wasn't the only move of the day. General manager Glen Sather made a deal with the Vancouver Canucks that sent a fifth-round pick in 2015's draft in exchange for rearguard Raphael Diaz.

The move may seem minor on the surface, but it is an important move that addressed one of New York's key needs. The Rangers sorely needed a quality depth defenseman, because having a surplus is important during the playoffs.

Over the summer, Justin Falk was signed to a contract, and he was expected to be the team's extra defender. That hasn't panned out, so Sather wisely added a defender who likely would be in the top six of other NHL teams.

The deal was necessary because other defenders in the system include Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath, and neither is likely to receive any playing time the rest of the season. With that in mind, the Rangers needed to add another defender, but they couldn't afford to pay a premium.

The Blueshirts dealt two picks in the St. Louis trade, and parting with any more picks wouldn't have been prudent considering Gordie Clark's drafting history. Diaz made sense, so the Rangers got a deal done.

Diaz started the season as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, but ultimately he was dealt to Vancouver. For a better look, here is The Hockey News' scouting report on the 28-year-old blueliner.

Raphael Diaz Player Profile
AssetsIs a smooth skater with puck poise and some offensive acumen. Moves the puck efficiently most of the time. Doesn't make a lot of mistakes when he has the puck.
FlawsLacks size and strength, so he can get knocked off the puck with relative frequency. Needs to be more assertive when on the ice, both on offense and defense.
Career PotentialSmooth, yet fragile puck-moving defenseman.
The Hockey News

As you can see, he is an offensive defender by trade, and not a bruiser by any means. The Blueshirts have a number of shutdown defenders such as Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, but they lack defenders who think offensively.

Ryan McDonagh is a hybrid defender who is skilled both offensively and defensively, Anton Stralman has developed into more of a defensive defender, and John Moore is still developing. I am not insinuating that Diaz is going to be the final piece, but his experience and skill set makes him valuable in the playoffs.

If the Rangers are looking to ice an experienced team during the playoffs, Diaz could get a chance to play over Moore. Diaz has more tenure in the league, and he could prove to be a better option during a time in which offense is a premium. 

He is also a right-handed shot, and that is something important to note. The Rangers don't have many right-handed defenders who can play on the power play, so adding Diaz also addressed that need.

The Rangers made a seemingly minor move, but it is one that could pay dividends during the playoffs.

Diaz is a young veteran who is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and if he plays well enough, he could replace Stralman if the Rangers can’t sign him to a new contract. It will be interesting to see when Diaz will get a shot in the lineup, because he certainly brings some offensive skill to the table.