Another trade deadline and another Rangers blockbuster.
Two years ago, the Blueshirts acquired Martin St. Louis for a handsome price, and last year it was Keith Yandle.
And now for 2016, they traded for former All-Star and Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal.
Oh, the Rangers had to pay up for Staal. Two second round picks and Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela is a lot to surrender for a pending free agent, but after a tough few months, the team is in it and gearing up for a Cup run.
You can’t blame them, since Henrik Lundqvist will be 34 on Wednesday and they don’t want to burn a year of his prime. And outside of the Capitals, who is running away with it, there are no other clear favorites in the East.
So after going to the Final two years ago and Game 7 of the Conference Championships last season, general manager Jeff Gorton pushed all his chips to the center.
This move makes the Rangers a much deeper team. With Marc’s brother in the top six, either Derick Brassard or Derek Stepan will move to the third line and Oscar Lindberg either becomes a fourth line scoring center or a third line wing.
Add to that getting Rick Nash back by the time April rolls around and you can feel pretty good about the Blueshirts depth.
And believe me, the Rangers will need this come playoff time. Unless there’s a huge drop-off in Brooklyn, the Blueshirts will face a Brooklyn Bridge holy war against the Islanders, with the winner in the unenviable position of facing the Capitals in the second round.
So just getting out of the Metropolitan Division will be a chore.
That’s why Gorton went for it today. He sees what everyone else sees. This Ranger team is good, but there was a good chance of them losing in the first or second round.
Now throw that out the window. With Staal, the Rangers get a playoff experienced center, who will add an extra scoring touch to the top six.
Does this make the Rangers a shoe in for the Conference Finals? No, but Staal gives them a chance to go to the third round for the fourth time in the past five years.
And maybe, if they get there they can actually win the Cup this time around.