With the news that Carl Hagelin and Cam Talbot are no longer Broadway bound, one has to wonder whether the New York Rangers have panicked.
By Robby Sabo
This situation seems awfully and painfully familiar to fans of the New York Rangers.
Two trade-deadlines ago, Glen Sather made a monstrous decision to trade away the heart and soul of the organization, Ryan Callahan. His impending free-agency was the sole cause.
The Rangers captain was asking for a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $6 annually, including a no-trade clause. Instead of caving, Glen Sather went the route of exchanging captains with the Tampa Bay Lighting.
It has been obviously painful for Rangers fans to realize that decision was only worth one strong spring.
Now, Marty St. Louis’ washed-up playing career is over with New York – as the Rangers have informed of this certainty – and Sather is left holding the bag of empty draft picks that actually landed in the Islanders lap (thanks to Garth Snow draft-day deals with Tampa).
Another stinger was realizing Anton Stralman’s productivity return on his annual salary of $4.5 million was light-years ahead of Dan Boyle’s $4.5 million.
These were all moves for the future. Moves to satisfy their salary-cap situation.
While Callahan and St. Louis made very similar salaries and Stralman and Boyle the same thing, the lack of long-term commitments made it easy to bring in each veteran.
Having said that and already seeing these moves, why is Sather and Jeff Gorton so quick to trade Carl Hagelin and Cam Talbot?
Hagelin was sent to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Emerson Etem and a second-round pick, while Cam Talbot was also shipped west – much more north and west to Edmonton – for the 57th, 79th and 184th picks in the draft (with Rangers 209th going to the Oilers).
This is more than disappointment. It seems to be a travesty of injustice for Blueshirts fans.
Nobody is arguing the rigors of a strict salary-cap system is tough to navigate, but the fact that only a second-rounder and a couple of other picks came back for Talbot – a guy who saved the season when Henrik Lundqvist went down – is almost impossible to wrap heads around.
This is a 28-year old guy who played better than any NHL goalie during that two-month stretch of dominance. He’s a guy who clearly jump-starts a free-flowing offensive attack with his stick-handling. He’s a guy who made more highlight reel saves than The King over the course of the last season.
How is this possible that Sather couldn’t garner more in return?
Assistant general manager, Jeff Gorton, weighed in on the deal, via New York Post:
“At times it might have looked like there were better deals [available] but it didn’t manufacture that way,” said Gorton, who spoke for the team. “In any scenario we would like to have gotten more.
“It went up, it went down; up, down. Sometimes maybe what was on the table was not what you remembered.”
You’re damn right you’d like to see more in return.
Here’s an idea: why not hang onto the guy who’s only making $1.45 million and play your hand after the draft, or even during the regular season when a team is in dire need of a goalie.
Or – and yes this will certainly be deemed as blasphemy – but what about trading away Lundqvist’s $8.5 million salary and building a real strong forward base? It seemed to work for the Chicago Blackhawks this past season (Corey Crawford).
If the Oilers could trade away Wayne Gretzky, the Rangers could sure do it with Lundqvist.
But I digress. This isn’t the time or the place for this discussion.
We all knew Talbot was as good as gone.
The real issue here surrounds Hagelin’s departure.
Entering the offseason, the cruel-reality that signing all of the impending free-agents was going to be a tall task. But one that all thought was possible – due to the careful planning of shipping out Callahan, Stralman and even Brian Boyle.
Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and of course, Hagelin, are all of the restricted variety right now. The only unrestricted free-agent was St. Louis, who’s now gone.
Due to the clearing of St. Louis $5.625 million salary and the fact that the NHL cap-max has hit $71 million, why was it a necessity to move Hagelin? This guy was their best penalty-killer, their fastest player, and a pure hustle and glue guy to the lineup. He is a quintessential third-line championship-caliber hockey player.
Stepan will surely be offered a long-term deal that’ll bump his salary up a few pegs from his current $3.075 million. Miller and Fast, on the other hand, won’t see a significant increase for at least a season or two.
There was plenty of time and money to keep Hagelin around. This was clearly a move that the organization will spin as a salary-cap move, but in reality it has more to do with Hagelin’s inability to put the puck in the net.
Perhaps the franchise is becoming a bit to reactionary.
The fact that offense was tough to come by in the playoffs might have nudged them in this direction. Maybe catering to Alain Vigneault’s high-scoring attack is another factor. Or maybe, just maybe, realizing the need for size in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is of the utmost importance.
The real reason surrounding the moves is the probability that they’re outsmarting themselves. Sure, salary-cap flexibility is great, but sometimes those glue-guys you already have installed are better.
In any event, the bitter losses from the Callahan and Stralman moves now has our eyes opened with a slight cringe every time we hear a Rangers salary-cap move.
With St. Louis and Hagelin now gone, they’ll certainly be a bigger team. They’ll now have the money to bring in other guys to fill their top-nine forwards. Fast will also now be leaned heavily upon to fill Hagelin’s speedy shoes.
In any event, Hags is a guy who won’t be easy to replace, and I’d rather have seen them keep Hagelin and forget the salary-cap flexibility for this offseason.
It was easily possible to keep him.
Sometimes hockey fans use the old eye-test to gauge whether or not a certain player has what it takes to help catapult a team to the next level. For guys like Callahan and Hagelin, the eye-test confirms championship caliber type players.
The Rangers will now have some extra cash to spend on one or two impact forwards. Spend wisely my friends.
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