Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rangers add McCabe, Richards next???

Yesterday, the rumors of Bryan McCabe coming to Broadway finally stopped with the Rangers finally acquiring the vet blueliner from the Panthers for a bargain basement price of AHLer Tim Kennedy and a third round pick. Before we add anything on how the 35 year-old can help our power play while adding much needed experience, I am dumbfounded that Dale Tallon, who already made one crazy deal with his former club, could only get that low return for a valuable player who still had something left.

It just absolutely boggles how the Panthers can be so inept. Almost as if they're still in the past trading away Roberto Luongo for a package that included Alex Auld, who was the winning goalie in Montreal's 4-3 home win over Carolina. The lopsided trade then orchestrated by current MSG analyst Mike Keenan also featured Todd Bertuzzi, who then bolted. Oh. And they also gave away Cory Stillman for a song back to the Candy Canes and already he's dialed up the time machine in a familiar setting. Speaking of bargains, the Pens won a wild 6-5 shootout thanks to their own Back To The Future character with Alex Kovalev wiring one past rookie James Reimer in Toronto. A conditional seventh round pick which potentially could turn to a sixth was all he could muster for desperate Ottawa, who wanted him gone.

I guess that makes a pair of teams who will do anything to rebuild. Jarkko Ruutu for a sixth rounder?!?!?!?!?! As much as I hate him, that was an absolute steal for Anaheim, who are locked in a ridiculous playoff chase that includes the Stars, who have been without Brad Richards a couple of weeks. The potential free agent just started skating as he recovers from a concussion. Will he stay or will he go? If I'm the Stars, obviously I don't want to lose such a great player for nothing due to question marks with ownership. Supposedly, that's going to get resolved at some point. The question is with less than 48 hours until Monday's 3 PM deadline, how does it impact the Stars, who have reeled off their last two to hang in a steeple chase of West clubs that even includes the red hot Jackets, who won again Friday.

It's extremely hard to document the West race when so many teams are bunched up with as many as 13 teams still in the hunt, including the defending champion Blackhawks on the outside a point behind. If the season ended today, Dallas would make it with their 72 points good for seventh while the unbelievable Flames would squeak in with 71. The Hawks and Preds each have 70 while the Ducks and Wild are tied with 69 with Columbus at 68 and the Blues creeping in with 65. Would the Avs like a do over on that Erik Johnson trade? Good God.

If you're the Stars, getting in the playoffs should be priority. That's a team that if they make it could be a tough out as long as Kari Lehtonen plays like he's capable of. Plus Jamie Benn is finally back healthy and doing his thing. There's also Mike Ribeiro, the vastly overlooked Loui Eriksson, Brenden Morrow and Jamie Langenbrunner. If Alex Goligoski fits in on a blueline that features vet Stephane Robidas and one of my faves Trevor Daley, who says Dallas can't be a sleeper? However, it all depends on what they do with B-Rad, who's been as much an MVP on any team. Enough can't be said about Mr. Richards' production before he went down that had him pacing the club in points (65), assists (39), power play points (25) and shots on goal (215) despite missing the past six counting Saturday's big win over Nashville. You simply can't replace that type of production along with the leadership the former Conn Smythe winner provides.

Are the Stars really prepared to sell their best player, who loves the area and the fans want more than anything to re-sign? It has a similar feel to Cliff Lee, who bolted Texas and dissed the Yankees for the Phillies. Will it be another bitter conclusion for Texas sports fans?

While Dallas must concern themselves with that dilemma, the Rangers who bolstered their back end for essentially zilch, can turn their attention to Richards. Rumors have circulated that Glen Sather is working the phones in an attempt to deliver the hot commodity to former Lightning Cup coach John Tortorella. While it would be great to bring Richards in, two questions that must be asked:

1.At what cost? If it means Derek Stepan, Mike Del Zotto and say Evgeny Grachev, pass. But if Sather can get them to take Artem Anisimov, Matt Gilroy and another prospect or No.1 pick package, great. With McCabe's $4.5 million salary on the cap, the Rangers must clear room to make such a blockbuster transaction. Is B-Rad merely a rental because if he is, they should stand their ground with July 1 around the bend.

2.Does anyone know when Marian Gaborik will return? He's been a colossal disappointment following a 42-goal, career best 86-point debut season in the Big Apple. Concussions are nothing to mess with. So, if that means holding him out the rest of the year, so be it. Look no further than what's going on with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, who still hasn't returned since being concussed by the combo of David Steckel and Victor Hedman.

These are the questions Sather and his brass must answer before making such a risky move when Richards can walk free. The intriguing aspect is both organizations are faced with tough propositions as neither is a playoff lock. The Rangers bolstered their chances by stringing together consecutive wins, including an impressive 6-0 domination of the Caps with Erik Christensen amassing a career best four points and Brian Boyle notching his team-leading 20th goal while D-Step added his 17th.

With McCabe in and Marc Staal not returning tomorrow for Ranger Kryptonite, Tampa Bay in one of those dreaded Sunday matinees, evolving rookie tandem Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer must continue to step up while savvy vet Steve Eminger stays in with McCabe arriving and Del Zotto going down to Connecticut. The Rangers also hope Ruslan Fedotenko is healthy enough to play after leaving in his first game back, possibly re-injuring the same shoulder he separated.

While the team will have its hands full with the first place Lightning who finally halted the Devil win streak at eight, it won't be easy to win three straight against a team they haven't beaten all year- entering 0-1-2. This is the last game before the deadline, which could loom large. Are they all in? Let the chips fall where they may.

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