On one of the most anti-climactic deadline days in recent memory, Rangers GM Glen Sather decided, surprisingly, not to jump into the fray and only pulled off two minor transactions before today’s league imposed 3 PM cutoff. Sather added the veteran depth defenseman they had lacked since the start of the season when they acquired journeyman Anders Eriksson from Phoenix for AHL goalie Miika Wiikman and a 2011 7th round draft pick.
Eriksson, 35, is a veteran of 14 NHL seasons. The 6-3, 224 lb. defenseman played 12 games for the Coyotes this season registering 3 assists. In 564 career games, Eriksson has compiled 22 goals and 152 assists. It is unclear whether he will be assigned to Hartford or will stay with the club at the NHL level should recently waived Enver Lisin or Aaron Voros be sent down.
The Rangers also swapped minor leaguers, trading LW Jordan Owens, who had 6 goals and 13 assists in 50 games for Hartford this season, to Detroit for C Kris Newbury. Newbury, 28, had 11 goals and 22 assists for Grand Rapids of the AHL this season. The 5-10, 205 lb. pivot has played in 48 career NHL contests registering 4 goals, 3 assists and 64 penalty minutes in those games.
While Sather’s decision to stand pat was met with mixed reaction from media and fans, I believe that it was the wrong move by the embattled GM. The Rangers, most everyone would agree, are not Stanley Cup contenders as currently constituted. The team has a shot at making the playoffs if they can pull off a late season surge but to expect anything more than a first round exit from this club (if they get in at all) is purely wishful thinking. While I applaud Glen Sather for realizing that this team is more than one or two players away from a long postseason run and not sacrificing any of his valuable young assets or draft picks to bring in a rental player or two today, there were still some moves that were begging to be made prior to the deadline. With teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Phoenix all looking to gain an advantage as the playoffs near, Sather owed it to his organization to shop impending UFA’s Vinny Prospal, Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to see if he could gain any valuable assets in return. With Carolina sniper Ray Whitney off the market, Prospal might have been a very attractive option (especially considering his low cap number) for many teams and might have garnered a first round pick in return based on other deals we’ve witnessed as of late. Sather knowing his team isn’t built for a deep run should have been looking to collect assets for next season and beyond instead of sitting on his hands and hoping for a miracle run come the postseason.
Sather has made some good moves as of late, getting rid of the ridiculous contract of Ales Kotalik and waiving Enver Lisin and Aaron Voros to gain some much needed cap space are two examples, but the moves that he needed to make the most for the future of this franchise seemed to never be a part of his deadline day plans. Sather may surprise everyone and use his cap room this summer in free agency to land a big fish up front like Illya Kovalchuk or Alexander Frolov, both players the Rangers desperately need to take some of the scoring burden off Marian Gaborik. He may even be able to pull off a trade for a bruising defenseman and in the process unload a few more of his albatross contracts. Sather has hung around for a long time by making those kind of moves and buying himself another year in the corner office but today, by holding on to hope and being blind to the reality of his team’s situation, he may have finally given the ownership of the Blueshirts an irrefutable reason as to why he shouldn’t be running this team next season. Unfortunately for the fans, the owners seem to be just as blind as their appointed emperor.