Eklund, "the anonymous hockey blogger," reported yesterday that Scott Gomez was in line to be traded so the Rangers could afford Mats Sundin (Gomez is making $7 million-plus for the next six seasons, I believe). I have some mixed thoughts on that move, and here are the pros and cons:
Trading Gomez is a move that might not just make sense if you're looking to acquire Mats Sundin, but it might make sense in regard to the types of prospects the Rangers have, and are looking to integrate into their team in the next few years.
First of all, Sundin is coming to the team for no less than $5 million to $6 million (and that's being generous on his part). He was, of course, offered $10 million by Vancouver, but the talk is that he'd take less to come to Broadway.
Sundin would be an interesting pickup, not only because he brings a load of experience to a team that let a majority of its players walk away this past summer, but he brings an annual 30 goals to his team. That's a decent amount of goals for a 37-year-old who can still sit in front of the net, and almost certainly have instant chemistry when playing with his good friend, 36-year-old Markus Naslund. Chemistry is hard to find, and Sundin playing with Naslund is almost guaranteed.
What I think is most interesting about this potential move is that Sundin is only going to play, at tops, two more years. Naslund's probably in that same boat. They'd be the new Straka/Jagr combination. However, and more so with Sundin, after he retires, it gives the Rangers' prospect depth, which truly is at center, a chance to shine.
If Gomez stays, with going-to-be-captain Chris Drury and emerging power forward Brandon Dubinsky, where are one of these centers going to play? Where would Artem Anisimov or Greg Moore find a spot in the lineup?
And that's just talking about players who are very close to the callup. In two or three years time, there will definitely be either other players who deserve a second look from Hartford, or free agent centers that are coming off big years and warrant a major look (Matt Cullen two years ago). Having three No. 1 centers under contract makes that impossible. Trading Gomez, as much as it would hurt, gives the team flexibility that was otherwise lost last summer.
Gomez, at this time, is also worth a lot to a team that wants a playmaking center. There are a handful of teams I can think of that would be willing to trade for Gomez, and that could give the cap relief the Rangers need if signing Sundin is truly in the future (I'll address potential trades at the end of this article).
It baffles me that we're here talking about this. Just a year ago, at this time, signing Gomez and Drury made the Rangers the darling of all free-agent conversation. We fans were supposed to watch the Stanley Cup favorites for the next decade because of that dual move. I saw things occur this year that made me believe, even if for a little while. I saw Ryan Callahan playing great with Chris Drury at his center. I was happy with the way Nigel Dawes and Gomez played with each other. Why interrupt that? Chemistry is not easy to find, and signing Sundin, even though he might have chemistry with countryman Naslund, doesn't guarantee full team chemistry. Even that pair have only played a handful of games with each other on Swedish exhibition teams.
Gomez, for his issues (like being a Devil for the beginning of his career), I believe came to the Rangers with expectations that were too high. However, I believe that almost every free agent has to deal with that. Last season, Gomez scored 16 goals. That's above-average for him, and his third-highest goal total. He posted 54 assists, which was right at his career average. In no way was this past season a disappointment. He played his game last year, and scored what he was expected to. You couldn't ask for more.
I do believe he is overpaid, without question. However, I'll take a guaranteed 50 assists and 70 points for the next few seasons. I definitely don't believe those are the numbers of a solid first-line center, but for a second-line center, that's perfect. Let him play behind Chris Drury or Brandon Dubinsky, and the Rangers, at this moment, have an incredibly solid 1-2-3 punch. I mean, how well spread-out was the Rangers offense last year?
If the Rangers were to trade Gomez, I could see a good group of teams lining up for his services. Here are a few potential trades I came up with, keeping in mind the Rangers are looking to shed salary, as well.
Scott Gomez and a second-round pick to Colorado for David Jones and Kevin Shattenkirk
This trade gives Colorado the No. 1 center it will probably need with the possible retirements of Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg. If they both retire, this trade becomes nearly mandatory for the Avs. It gives the Rangers two top prospects (a hard-hitting winger and a top mobile puck-moving defenseman for the future), and a ton of cap relief.
Scott Gomez and Petr Prucha to Edmonton for Ales Hemsky and a third-round pick
This trade, makes decent financial sense, giving the Rangers about $4 million back. The Rangers could still possibly squeeze Sundin in with that money. Hemsky would bring about an immediate turnaround for the Rangers group on the wing, and is a huge upgrade there. Gomez brings some experience to that team, and gives some leadership to a squad that certainly needs it.
Scott Gomez and Michal Roszival to Florida for Jay Bouwmeester and Rostislav Olesz
What a blockbuster. The Panthers get rid of their headache and draft pick that hasn't performed as they'd like, and the Rangers trade $12 million for about half that. Even if they sign Bouwmeester for a little more than he's making now, it's a major cut in salary. Olesz will eventually play better, but I think with Nikolai Zherdev, Naslund, Prucha and Dawes, he'll be given a little extra time to develop without the pressure of being that No. 1 guy right away. Bouwmeester will thrive in New York behind Redden, and the Rangers will be able to afford Sundin. To me, on a secondary note, Gomez and David Booth just seems like an unstoppable combination.
Scott Gomez and a third-round pick to LA for Dustin Brown
Adding Dustin Brown to the Rangers lineup is a significant improvement. He's big, strong, mean, a hitter, and a goal-scorer. He's a perfect power forward, and would be solid on the wing of either Dubinsky or Drury. Gomez brings leadership to a team that desperately needs it, and this is a win-win. LA keeps Kopitar, which is most important to them. Kopitar and Gomez could be dynamic.
Scott Gomez and Michal Roszival to Minnesota for Marian Gaborik and Kurtis Foster
Another monster blockbuster. Gomez wouldn't fit better anywhere than in his old system, and here's his chance to play with Jacques Lemaire once again. Roszival continues the trend Minnesota's trying to maintain with puck-moving defenseman. Gaborik has been on the block for the last little while, and really would legitimize the Rangers' core of wingers.
Kurtis Foster might be exactly what the Rangers are lacking: a 6'5" defenseman who doesn't mind using his body, and has a very solid shot to boot. Even if the Rangers give Gaborik $7 million or $8 million, this move saves the Rangers lots of money...until they spend it on Sundin.