When the Rangers traded for Rick Nash in the offseason, they did so knowing that they were gutting the middle of the roster. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were key to solidifying the bottom six, and when The Canadiens gave Brandon Prust $10 million, three of the most important bottom-six guys were departing Broadway. It was a problem that the organization knew about, and it was a problem that they tried to address.
They brought in Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, Arron Asham in the offseason, and traded for Darroll Powe a few weeks into the shortened season. These guys were supposed to be appropriate replacements for the departed players, especially when you consider the production Nash would add to their current superstars in Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. And therein lies the problem. Gaborik and Richards didn’t produce. The bottom-six replacements did not do their jobs. The Rangers had a black hole in the lineup that needed to be addressed.
There are only so many ways the Rangers could address a problem like that. They have cap issues for next season with Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and Ryane Clowe all entering some form of free agency. They have a superstar who is underperforming and rumored to be unhappy with the treatment he had been receiving.
League GMs are not stupid. They recognized the situation the Rangers were in. They had one roster player they could deal that would address their depth issues and address their future cap issues. That roster player was Marian Gaborik. Add in the fact that many teams are concerned about the cap for next year (Gaborik carries a $7.5 million cap hit next season), and it limits his value even more.
Slats and Jeff Gorton did what they could to address their black hole. They traded for Clowe, and did not deal any roster players in the process. That was a good first step, but it did not address their center depth, and it did not address their defensive depth. However, it addresses their wing depth and their grit/toughness.
At this point, the Rangers have an underachieving winger taking up 11% of next year’s cap, no center depth, and no bottom-pairing on defense. The Blue Jackets were a natural fit, as they needed scoring and had depth players to give.
But the Rangers are not shopping Gaborik from a position of strength. They are desperate to address their black hole, and have just one tool to do so. Jarmo Kekäläinen is no fool, he knows the Rangers are desperate. That instantly hurts Gaborik’s trade value.
All that said, the Rangers addressed their needs by acquiring Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore. Moore slides right into the bottom-pairing as a smooth skating defenseman with some offensive potential. Dorsett is hurt, but he’s bruiser who can at least skate better than Mike Rupp. In Brassard, the Rangers address their center depth with a guy who is capable of putting up 20 goals and 50 points. Whether he regains his form in New York, only time will tell.
The biggest thing to remember about this Gaborik trade was that it was necessitated by three things: 1) Next year’s cap, 2) Under performance, and 3) a black hole of a bottom-six. Those three do not add up to any sort of leverage when looking for a trade. The Rangers may not have gotten top value for Gaborik, but they addressed their three holes. Given the circumstances, the trade netted decent returns.