I imagine there will be a significant faction of fans upset to see the Rangers ship three-time 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik out of town, but let me tell you why that is shortsighted.
While the Rangers addressed some immediate needs -- depth down the middle and on defense, plus some extra grit -- the most critical element of this deal may not be fully appreciated until the summer.
With the salary cap dropping dramatically next season from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, the Rangers needed to shed salary. And moving Gaborik and his $7.5 million cap hit to the Columbus Blue Jackets provides the team with some much-needed flexibility.
Gaborik has one year left on a five-year, $37.5 million deal, and cutting ties with him allows the Rangers some maneuverability this offseason. That’s crucial, considering they'd like to lock up some of their promising young players like Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh to longer deals this summer. All three players are restricted free agents.
Should the Rangers wish to re-sign recently acquired Ryane Clowe, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, they could probably do that now, as well.
The deal also eliminates a potential buyout candidate in Gaborik; the Rangers could exercise their second allotted compliance buyout on Brad Richards, if they so choose. New York already used an accelerated compliance buyout on Wade Redden.
It’s actually a good deal for both teams, the Rangers and the Blue Jackets.
New Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen admitted that the team’s biggest need was goal scoring, and Gaborik is still capable of that. Granted, he has been streaky in years past and has been slumping for the majority of this season, but he is still coming off a 41-goal season.
A change of scenery and a new coach might be a good thing for Gaborik. And should he find a good fit with Columbus -- an organization that appears to be turning the corner on the downtrodden times of the Scott Howson era -- then they might be interested in signing him to a contract extension this summer, which Kekalainen told reporters he intends to do.
Now, let’s talk about how this deal helps the Rangers now.
The Rangers are hurting for offense. That’s no secret. They are last in the league with a meager 2.26 goals per game heading into Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. And no matter how snake-bitten Clowe has been, there is no one Rick Nash-like player in that group who can provide that sort of lift.
So, if you are a Rangers fan disappointed in that regard, fair enough. But again, you have to think about it in terms of what this allows the Rangers to do in the summer.
I think the deals made in the past two days address the identity issue with the Rangers, more than anything.
Derek Dorsett and Clowe add some much-needed grit -- an element that was sacrificed in the loss of Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp and even Ruslan Fedotenko. They add some depth down the middle with Derick Brassard, vital considering their dire need at the center position. And they bolster their blue line with John Moore, an area weakened by the loss of Marc Staal.
Could this make the Rangers a much tougher team to play against in the playoffs? Yes, most definitely.
Do any of the moves add up to the Stanley Cup? Probably not.
This is not the season for the Rangers, though they still have a very strong young core and solid organizational depth. And, with this deal, that is precisely what they are trying to protect.