The Rangers are in a very unique position this year. They currently sit in 6th in the Eastern Conference, and are only three points away from 4th place. It is very clear that the Rangers are a playoff team. It is also very clear that they can skate with the upper echelon teams in the Conference, and can definitely win a seven game series with any of the teams ahead of (or behind) them. However, this is a flawed Rangers team. They lack a veteran presence on the blue line, they lack a puck moving defenseman that can quarterback the powerplay, and they lack balanced scoring from the forwards. With the East seemingly up in the air, the Rangers are facing a tough decision. Do they buy at the deadline to fill these holes? Which youngsters are deemed “expendable”? What is the right cost to make a Cup run?
A team will always need a balance of veterans who have been there before to guide the youth through the playoff grind. In 1994, the Rangers brought in those key veterans (Steve Larmer, Esa Tikkanen, Craig MacTavish) and it led to a Cup. However, it cost them Tony Amonte and Doug Weight. Sometimes, that is the price you pay for a Cup. There are many big names that the Rangers can look at (Bryan McCabe and Jarome Iginla are ones that come to mind), but is selling the future for a potential Cup run this year worth it? Can the right veterans really lead this young core to the promised land? Henrik Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger.
The Rangers have a window to win, and that window is The King’s prime. Lundqvist is now 28 years old, and he should probably have another 3-4 years after this season of prime goaltending before his age starts to show (probably about when his contract expires in 2013-2014). With the East seemingly up in the air, the Rangers may be able to seize the opportunity and pick up a key piece at the deadline for a Cup run. Key pieces cost key youth though. Are fans ready and willing to give up a roster player like Artem Anisimov or Mats Zuccarello-Aasen? What about a prospect like Ethan Werek or Ryan Bourque? These are the kinds of names that will be gone to solidify this team for a Cup run this season. Lundqvist is the key to a Rangers Cup run, and his window to win as an all-world goalie is closing. You have to give to get in this NHL.