Seasons end, years go by, and quite frankly, the New York Rangers aren't shedding any tears as they wave bye-bye to 2013.
At the official midpoint of their season, the Rangers find themselves at 20-19-2, good for 42 points, and on the outside of the playoff picture. Using the old rule of thumb that it takes at least 90 points to make it to the postseason, the Blueshirts will need to go 24-17 over their last 41 to have a chance. There's probably some algorithm involving shootout losses that would enable the Rangers to hit 90 without winning 24 games, but actually earning those points should be the goal.
They've been fortunate so far, in the respect that the Metropolitan Division has emerged as the new playoff format's answer to the old SouthLeast (Southeast, if you're slow on the uptake), as the easiest path to the postseason. But, the once left for dead Flyers and Devils have rebounded from horrendous starts to leapfrog the Rangers in the standings, with Carolina and Columbus not far behind.
It could be a dog fight of mediocrity right to the bitter end.
The trade deadline is March 5th, and you can bet the house that the Rangers on March 6th will look radically different than they do today. It's been rumored for months now that Glen Sather is willing to deal anyone not named McDonagh, Nash, or Kreider.
Could that mean even the King himself–Henrik Lundqvist–the highest paid goalie in the league could be had for the right price?
Not likely, but nothing would come as a complete surprise. The fact is, since going on a run to the conference finals in 2012, the Rangers have been a very average team. They needed a roster overhaul and strong finish just to make the elimination round in last year's truncated season, and with a new coach, new system, and 13 players set to enter free agency after the season, the Blueshirts are very much a team in transition.
Two of those potential free agents–Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi–have already been mentioned as potential rentals at the deadline, if the Blueshirts were to fall out of the playoff hunt.
Ultimately, the Rangers play in the second half will dictate which path they take in the coming months. If they're in the hunt for a playoff spot come March, Callahan and Girardi won't be dangled as rentals, but if the Rangers slump, dealing one or both will look very appetizing. Callahan and Girardi will likely command sizable raises on the open market, and both were better fits in John Tortorella's blue-collar system than Alain Vigneault's free-flowing one.
It would be tough for the masses who pack the Garden to see them go, but personnel decisions should be made with the head, not the heart.
Change is coming, Blueshirts' fans. Are you ready?
-Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan, and Derek Stepan were officially named to the US Olympic team. Of those three, Stepan is the lone surprise. He made it over players seemingly more deserving (Bobby Ryan, Kyle Okposo), because of his ability to play center.
-Taylor Pyatt was waived today, signaling that Ryan Callahan's return is imminent.
-Feel free to weigh in on who you think the Blueshirts should be looking to trade or acquire in the comments section below.Tags: Alain Vigneault, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Glen Sather, Hockey, John Tortorella, New York, New York Rangers, NHL, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh
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