Rookie General Manager Jeff Gorton has gotten his tenure with the New York Rangers going with a splash on his first trade deadline.
The team acquired former captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, Eric Staal. Staal, 31, has a lot of hockey under his belt with plenty of big game experience to boot. In 2006, Staal registered 28 points in a 25-game playoff run that culminated with the Hurricanes winning the Stanley Cup. The only other time in his career in which his team qualified for the postseason was 2009, where Staal (10-5-15 in 18 games played) was once again a factor for his team.
Over the past few seasons his production has taken a turn downward. He’s registered 60 points only one time since 2012. His former team had been perennial doormats in the Eastern Conference. Staal alone hasn’t been enough to keep his team from being atrocious for the past five or so seasons. Still, despite this dip in production, the Rangers know they are getting an all-world player who will add size, a net-front presence and a helping hand in solidifying an already solid group of top-nine forwards.
In Eric Staal, New York is receiving a player who has hit 100 points in a season, a player who has scored over 30 goals in a season five times in his career and a player who will surely be rejuvenated by the fact that he is now playing for a contender. It was a calculated, low-risk, high-reward move by Jeff Gorton. It was also an absolute steal.
The Rangers managed to keep the organization’s top prospects and wouldn’t budge when Carolina’s original asking price was a first-round pick, according to Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman. Carolina was in somewhat of a bind due to Staal stating publicly that he would only waive to come and play with his brother Marc for the Rangers, and Gorton took advantage.
The trade came at the expense of prospect Aleksi Saarela, a Finnish forward who has been tearing it up overseas playing in a league made up of mostly men as a 19-year old. Saarela, a 2015 3rd-round pick, can be described as a speedy and energetic player with NHL-level hands and good overall offensive ability. While he could turn out to be a decent NHLer in a few years, losing Saarela will not cripple the Rangers’ farm system in the slightest.
Gorton also conceded to part way with a pair of second round draft picks (‘16/’17). This ultimately means the Rangers won’t have a pick in the first two rounds in either of the next two entry drafts, yikes. Such is the cost of being in contention at what turned out to be an unusually quiet NHL trade deadline.
The price the Rangers paid seems miniscule when compared with what other teams gave up for their premium additions. The Chicago Blackhawks relinquished perhaps their top prospect in Marko Dano and a first-round pick on top of that for what will likely be 3-4 months of former Winnipeg Jet Andrew Ladd. The Dallas Stars paid a premium that includes a young standout defenseman and a conditional second or firs-round draft pick to land defenseman Kris Russell formerly of the Calgary Flames.
Going into the deadline weekend, all eyes were on Gorton to bring in what the Rangers needed the most: help at the forward position. Gorton delivered.
In acquiring Staal, the Rangers add a player who can slot in either on the wing or at center and play up and down in the lineup. Staal is a defensively stout two-way forward that hopes to rejuvenate his career and light the lamp when it counts come playoff time. Gorton said of Staal, “We think we are acquiring the best player available this weekend…as of tomorrow he’ll be in a playoff spot and we expect that will re-energize him.”
This was New York’s only significant deadline move, and early signs say that it was a home run. Gorton managed to keep his NHL roster completely unscathed while also not mortgaging the Rangers’ future by trading away Brady Skjei, Dylan McIlrath or Pavel Buchnevich, who will all have their time to shine on Broadway soon enough.
In his first trade deadline, Jeff Gorton receives a solid A for not overpaying for a point-per-game playoff scorer and potential playoff hero.