It’s that time of year when rumors build and speculation escalates and, with next Monday's trade deadline on the near horizon, the Rangers find themselves in the midst of mounting trade chatter.
The 37-14-5 Blueshirts are reportedly one of the front-runners to land coveted winger Rick Nash, who the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets placed on the trading block earlier this week, but the potential blockbuster deal poses some serious questions:
Do the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers need Nash? And how could the move affect an already strong team chemistry?
“I believe in team chemistry and all that. I don’t believe in us worrying about it,” said alternate captain Brad Richards. “That’s something that people are paid to do above us. We’re all confident, as every player usually is, [that] we’ve got a great room. No matter what happens, we’re able to handle it. As far as commenting on chemistry and all that, that’s for [coach John Tortorella] and management and those people to monitor. We’ve got enough to worry about.”
Although a move to bring in the 27-year-old Nash would require the Rangers to part with significant assets and potentially disrupt the team’s nucleus, players are not concerned with it jeopardizing the team’s identity.
“We’ve got a tight group and we all want to win, so if it’s something that will help the team, we’re all for it,” veteran Mike Rupp said. “But at the same time, we believe in what we’ve got here now.”
So does Tortorella, who said “I like our club” when asked about the implications of any addition or subtraction to the team.
Tortorella didn’t want to weigh in on the trade deadline – in fact, he said he didn’t even know when it was – but conceded that chemistry must always be weighed when considering a deal.
"Those are discussions you have to have. I'm not going to talk about it one way or another right now, because I'm worried about Columbus, but every organization goes through it and they have to have discussions," Tortorella said. "I know all the owners and general managers are always looking to improve their team, but there are certain situations and things to discuss as far as chemistry. I’ll give you that."
Tortorella re-iterated his trust in the club and said he is not concerned with his players losing focus as the deadline approaches. Internally, the team has yet to discuss the impending distraction and, according to Richards, may not need to.
“It hasn’t been addressed. I don’t know if it has to be,” Richards said. “Guys have been handling it well. If we do know someone’s struggling with it or thinking about it, definitely we’ll try to help out, but it’s the nature of the business, and when you sign up for this, we know things like this happen. We’re all pros and we’ve got to act like pros in that situation.”
Regardless of what transpires over the next eight days, the Rangers will be glad when the deadline passes. One less distraction in a season of many.
“It kind of hangs over for a couple weeks or the week leading up to it. There’s rumors, there’s speculation, you hear names being tossed around,” alternate captain Marc Staal said. “It’s nice when that day is over.”