NHL Trade Deadline: What The Rangers Need To Do After The Olympics

S BCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Marian Gaborik #10 of Slovakia greets his team after scoring a second period goal during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Sweden and Slovakia on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Olympics are going to derail a lot of teams' trade plans this year.

The deadline is March 3 at 3 PM, so teams and players will go straight from the Olympics or an Olympic-size break right into the heart of trade season.

So basically teams will be making decisions based on how everything was working two weeks ago. It's not an ideal way to work.

For the Rangers, it's an even more complex process because they're right on the outside of the playoff bubble, a point behind Montreal for the eighth seed, with one game in hand.

Are the Rangers a playoff-bound team?

If GM Glen Sather believes that, he'll need to take steps to make the team better, potentially surrendering draft picks and prospects in order to get in some proven veterans.

But Sather surely realizes the Rangers are not a playoff-bound team. And even if the Rangers do somehow stumble into the playoffs, they can't possibly make much of a run deep into the postseason.

So the smart trade deadline choices involve standing pat or making moves to get better next year. Because short-term rental players aren't going to help the Rangers very much.

But there are certain scenarios where a short-term rental might improve the team.

One interesting possibility is Pavol Demitra. An unrestricted free agent next season, Demitra is coming off of shoulder surgery and hasn't been doing much as a Canuck this year, seeming to have fallen out of favor with coach Alain Vigneault. But Demitra has looked great in the Olympics and has shown a chemistry with a certain Solvakian compatriot by the name of Marian Gaborik.

The Canucks would probably be happy to give away Demitra in order to take on more expensive and useful players for their playoff run. And the Rangers might like seeing Demitra and Gaborik together again (they also played together in Minnesota) before deciding whether to offer Demitra a contract in the offseason.

It could potentially be a win-win for both teams, but at the very least, a low-risk gamble for the Rangers.

The Rangers also still have a defensive mess to clean up, what with their two prohibitively expensive defensemen also being their two worst players.

Heading into the Olympic break, the buzz around the Rangers was that they were close to severing ties with Wade Redden, either via a buyout or by sending him down to the AHL, never to return.

The struggling Michal Rozsival, with two years left on his contract, a cap hit of $5 million per year, and $7 million in total salary, can't possibly draw much interest. Despite his fine offensive moments from time to time, contractually he's a complete and total albatross.

The Rangers could sniff around any available defensemen, like the injured Sheldon Souray over in Edmonton, but they are probably better off standing pat until the offseason.

The Rangers still need to address their backup goalie situation, or, more to the point, the lack of a true backup for Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist's Olympic time was cut short with Sweden's shocking loss to Slovakia, so he should be relatively rested when the NHL season resumes, but the Rangers have flown without a goalie safety net for far too long. They need an NHL-ready backup who can step in both to give Lundqvist rest and, in the worst case scenario, if Lundqvist goes down with an injury.

Tampa goalie Antero Niittymaki will be an unrestricted free agent next year. If the Lightning's rental price isn't too high, he would be a great player to grab and lock up before he hits the open market.

By most metrics, this has been a disappointing season for the Rangers and their fans. The upcoming trade deadline is a chance to right some of the more fixable wrongs. It'll be interesting to see if the Rangers take advantage of the opportunity.


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