Yesterday’s signing of winger Brandon Pirri brings the total number of players on the Rangers roster to 26. With an opening night roster cap of 23, it is obvious that there will be more changes before the start of the season. But what if those changes do not include a significant trade? And what does Pirri bring to the table?
Let’s answer the second question first.
The newly acquired Pirri is a streaky player who brings some very interesting possibilities. Good wheels, with an outstanding shot, Pirri could be the power play and shootout specialist that the Rangers have been looking for. Likely to play on the fourth line at even strength, Pirri (who joins his fifth team since breaking into the league in 2010) can potentially fill a role that could gain the Rangers 3 to 5 points in wins this season.
The 25-year old Toronto native clearly has offensive talent, but the questions with him always have been, can he consistently perform and how much of a liability will he be in his own end? Had Pirri been better on D, there is no doubt that the Rangers never would have been able to sign him for 1.1 million. But the consistency issue is more of a concern to the Rangers right now. He needs to bring it every game, be a threat from the point on the PP and score in shootouts. Pirri will more than earn his keep if he can do that and earn a big raise as an RFA next summer.
With that answered, its back to the first question, what if there are no further big trades before the season starts?
Although rumors continue to abound of trades for an offensive defensemen, it remains to be seen whether the Rangers’ staff can pull this off. With a roster of 16 forwards (including Pavel Buchnevich, but not Marek Hrivik or Maxim Lapierre), there is room to trade players up front. But many of the Ranger players’ stock is rather low right now. The most tradable would appear to be Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, with Kreider being the most eligible. However, nothing has panned out thus far this summer and there is no reason to believe that the trade package the Rangers were offering will suddenly become more desirable over the next few weeks. Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast are also considered interesting for possible trades, but ridding the team of their salaries would be insufficient to allow for New York to take on a proven offensive blueliner.
Given the situation, it is very possible that there will be no good options to trade before the start of the season, and that, therefore, there will be competition in camp among NHL players for forward roster spots. It is likely that two players will be sent through waivers and then on to Hartford (Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey are the only forwards that would not need to go through waivers to be sent down to the AHL, but both of them are expected to make the roster).
If two forwards are sent down, and there is no change in the defense at the start of the season, will the team still be competitive enough to make the playoffs? The answer to that is a resounding Yes. The Rangers should be playoff bound, trade or no trade.
What is most important to remember that this is not the last opportunity to make a big trade. The right trade may not happen until at or before the trade deadline. At that point, the team’s exact needs will be clear and the roster players’ stock could be higher.
So, unless something jumps out at GM Jeff Gorton right now, it probably will be better to take a wait and see approach. The right trade at the right time is what puts a team over the top.