With the March 5 trade deadline six days away, the NHL rumor mill is really starting to churn. Each morning, it seems, the league is recovering from a night of debauchery, leaving the fans to put together the pieces and connect the dots. (What happens here, stays here, is the rule among GMs.)
It’s safe to say we’ve entered that zone of satiety, where the press is working faster than the printers, and the printers are working faster than the people. We’re still days removed from the deadline, and it’s already getting hard to keep up.
Fans of the New York Rangers are especially aware of this. Their team has been in the muck of rumors and speculation since the end of January. It was then that contract talks surrounding Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi hit a standstill, thus forcing GM Glen Sather to gauge the trade market for two of his core players. Things are made all the zanier by the fact that the Rangers fancy themselves a Cup contender, even while shopping a pair of players that Cup contenders are desperate to have. Hey Alain Vigneault: welcome to New York!!
But things have really heated up of late. Names like Martin St. Louis, Matt Moulson, and most recently, Ryan Kesler, have been added to the mix, inviting Rangers fans to play armchair GM. Let’s take a look at a couple rumors growing in The Garden and try to make sense of what’s what.
Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver Canucks
Reports surfaced Wednesday afternoon of Kesler wanting out of Vancouver – demanding a trade, in fact. His agent shot down that notion hours later, calling the reports “BS”, but rumors don’t arise out of nothing. John Tortorella has suggested the Canucks need to shake up their roster, and if Kesler does indeed want a change of scenery, GM Mike Gills could make him the centerpiece of a blockbuster move. Kesler owns a no-trade clause and will have to approve any deal the Canucks make, but if he wants out he wants out.
From the Rangers’ standpoint, Kesler makes a ton of sense. The team has been thin down the middle all year long, and Kesler is a bonafide number-one center in the NHL. He’s a goal-scorer, a distributor, a hound on the forecheck and on top of all that one of the best defensive forwards in the league. Financially speaking, he carries a relatively modest $5 million cap hit through the 2015-16 season. At 29 years old, Kesler is just about everything the Rangers could ask for.
A lot of fans have suggested Callahan for Kesler, straight up. Tortorella is reunited with his favorite player from New York and Vigneault is reacquainted with his number one center from Vancouver. Boom. Done. Except it won’t be that easy from the Rangers’ side of things. Kesler is an extremely valuable commodity in the NHL and it will take more than Callahan, an impending free agent, to pry him away from Vancouver. The Canucks are reportedly looking for a multi-player package centered around a young, NHL-proven center – a budding Kesler, essentially. Are Rangers fans willing to part ways with Derek Stepan? Because that’s who it will take – plus a high draft pick/solid prospect – to land Kesler.
Keep an eye on this story – it seems to be more than hot air.
Martin St. Louis, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
If the Canucks and Rangers are a perfect match as trading partners, the Rangers and Lightning are a gulf or two apart. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman apparently has no interest in trading Martin St. Louis straight up for Ryan Callahan and Glen Sather apparently has no interest in adding prospects or draft picks on top of his captain. Like John Tortorella and the media, the two sides don’t seem to be very compatible.
Why are we here then? Because St. Louis has made it impossible to look away. The 38-year-old Tampa Bay lifer has requested a trade, although not exactly diplomatically. It’s the Rangers, he’s told Yzerman, or it’s no one. (And St. Louis has a full no-trade clause, so he’s in power here. Though Yzerman might like to dump him in Calgary just to rub salt in the Olympic wound, that’s simply not an option.) Even if the two teams haven’t made progress in negotiations, this is more than a fleeting fancy.
And expect Sather to pursue this hard. St. Louis is still an elite player in the NHL and is putting together another terrific season in Tampa Bay. His 25 goals and 56 points would rank first on this Rangers team and provide the heavy artillery the club has long been missing. It might not be Callahan heading in the other direction, but Sather will do his best to put together a package that Yzerman agrees with. We all have our guilty pleasures, our weaknesses, and for Sather it’s the big-name star.