In just his second year of his NHL career Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning has established himself as one of the games top scorers with 46 goals already in the 2009-2010 season and apparently he was almost a Ranger.
The Rangers started working on the Tampa house-of-cards ownership during the teams’ trip to Prague, where the clubs opened the 2008-09 regular season with a pair of games. Sather got the ear of co-owner Len Barrie, a former NHL player. Conversations continued after the clubs returned to North America.
By the time the Blueshirts visited Tampa on Thanksgiving of 2008, the talks had become serious. Barrie was asking to choose two or three from a wish list that featured Michael Del Zotto, Evgeny Grachev, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Dan Girardi.
The deal, according to Sather, was struck. The Rangers would be getting Stamkos, who has scored 46 goals thus far this season, tied for second in the NHL with Alex Ovechkin and just one behind Sidney Crosby in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Oh, no, they wouldn’t.
“How close did we come?” Sather asked rhetorically, repeating the question we posed to him as the Rangers practiced in Tampa on Thursday. “We shook hands on it, that’s how close.
“I’d been on it since Europe. I had an agreement with Len Barrie. I asked him if he had the authority to make the trade, and he assured me that he did, because he was an owner.
“But the next day, I found out that he didn’t. He went to run the deal by [GM] Brian Lawton, who wanted no part of it. As I understood it, the way it was told to me, Barrie was still going to make the deal, but then he was told that he couldn’t unless he got the approval of [co-owner] Oren Koules.
“Koules shot it down,” said Sather. “That was the end of it.”
Thoughts: What you have to realize in reading about this story is that this would have taken place last year when the Rangers still had Scott Gomez. Now Gomez is a talented player, but the Rangers clearly overpaid for him to the point where most fans thought they were stuck with him on Broadway. Fortunately Sather was able to trade him to Montreal over the summer.
So let’s say the Rangers pulled the trigger on this deal and dealt two players from the group of Del Zotto, Grachev, Callahan, Dubinsky, and Girardi. That would mean that they would be missing at least two of those players, but would have Stamkos and Gomez and no Marian Gaborik, as they wouldn’t have had salary cap space to sign him.
It’s possible that the Rangers could have still made the trade that sent Gomez to Montreal and signed Gaborik, but the team would have been in an entirely different position and instead of trying to add a player to build around, in this case we’re talking about Gaborik, they would have had Stamkos and the idea would have been to build around him. That could have involved shipping out Gomez, but instead of using that money to sign Gaborik they likely would have used it to replace the pieces they lost in trading for Stamkos.
Personally I believe that while Stamkos may be better than Gaborik, it’s too early to tell for sure, the difference probably isn’t huge. Also that list of five players (Del Zotto, Grachev, Callahan, Dubinsky, and Girardi) are some of my favorite players on the team and I think it would have been hard to replace some of them.
So I don’t think that this deal not happening is necessarily bad for the Rangers, only because it is hard to imagine exactly what this team would look like right now if they had made the deal.
The question to as yourself is – with how the team is currently constructed, Gaborik and no Gomez, would you deal two of the five players on that list, Del Zotto, Grachev, Callahan, Dubinsky, and Girardi, for Stamkos?
I don’t know, it’s tempting. I’d probably have to know which two they actually wanted. Depending on who exactly it was in the deal I’d have to say yes.
What are your thoughts?