With the New York Rangers in the heat of the playoff race, it’s doubtful too many fans were content to see the NHL’s trade deadline pass with 26-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs center John Mitchell the only name added to the roster.
With two goals and an assist in 2010-11 with the Leafs before being sent to the AHL, Mitchell’s best asset is probably his ability to win faceoffs. He posted a 55.7 faceoff percentage before his demotion. Though his role with the Rangers remains to be determined, that's an area the team could use some help with Chris Drury unlikely to return this season.
For fans keen to obtain Dallas Stars C Brad Richards, the top name on the trade market and one linked to the Rangers throughout Monday, Mitchell is a rather poor substitute. But a look at the big picture should temper that disappointment.
First, there’s the break from the usual Broadway “seize the back page” playbook that demands grandiose (and often irrational) action. In the wake of the Knicks’ trade for Carmello Anthony, and the city’s ensuing love affair with the hoops star, there could have been pressure for Glen Sather to follow suit and sacrifice a deliberate (and so far fruitful) internal rebuilding plan for the quick fix. Rather than chase headlines, the Rangers showed restraint.
Second, the Rangers will now still have the assets they didn’t trade away. Looking at this roster, the Blueshirts were probably not going to be a serious Cup contender this season, and have probably overachieved given their injury situation and the down year by Marian Gaborik. That speaks to the job John Tortorella has done installing a system and a mentality that the Rangers’ room has bought into. If you have a good thing going for you, you don’t want to mess with it if the cost is too great ... which brings us to point No. 3.
There’s always this summer. Richards hits free agency July 1 and the Stars' ownership situation may very well still be in flux. The Rangers should have plenty of cap space to sign the Star and based on yesterday’s buzz that New York was the only team to which Richards would accept a trade, you’d have to think he has interest in coming here. In that case the Rangers can nab him for cash alone, even if he can’t help with a cup run this season.
There was a report yesterday that the asking price for Richards consisted of Artem Anisimov, a pick and a prospect. One person familiar with the situation said the cost was much steeper however. So steep, the Rangers were apparently unwilling to pay it.
In the short term, it seems that reluctance will cost them a strong shot at the Cup. In the long term however, it could be the decision that leads to a hard charge at the hardware for years to come.