With the revelation that the New York Rangers would be willing to deal Ryan Callahan and/or Dan Girardi if they don't sign before the March 5th trade deadline, the next, most obvious, question becomes: What could they get?
Probably not as much as John Q. Fan would like. A look at recent deadline deals involving pending UFA's–"rentals," if you will–paints a pretty clear picture of what the expected return is. Jarome Iginla, when he was traded from Calgary to Pittsburgh, brought a 1st-round pick and two mid-level prospects back to the Flames in return. Jay Bouwmeester–who had a full year left on his deal–was shipped from Calgary to St. Louis for two unspectacular prospects and a 1st rounder.
Even Ilya Kovalchuk–a player of much greater talent than the prior two–fetched a relatively modest return, going from then-Atlanta to New Jersey for a 1st, Johnny Oduya, and two prospects who didn't pan out.
The typical rate of return for a soon-to-be free agent seems to be a pick and two mid-level prospects, which really wouldn't make much sense for the Rangers, a team in the midst of the playoff hunt. Unless Glen Sather is able to get away with grand larceny–which isn't impossible, who can forget the Scott Gomez for Ryan McDonagh trade?–getting a young player with star potential in return for Callahan or Girardi is likely out of the question. Unless of course, a team like the Edmonton Oilers, who seem primed to make an ill-advised, reactionary move, decide to part with one of their youngsters.
That possibility aside, targeting other UFA's that might provide an upgrade or be willing to re-up at a more reasonable price is the most the logical option for Sather and the Rangers. TSN's Darren Dreger has already reported the Blueshirts are interested in St. Louis' Chris Stewart, a deal which would see Callahan headed out the door in return for likely more than just the Blue's struggling power forward alone.
The biggest fish in the pond is the Islanders' Thomas Vanek, but that's just not going to happen. Other intriguing options include Phoenix's Radim Vrbata, a proven goal scorer who could be available if the Yotes continue to flounder, Buffalo's Matt Moulson, whose recent injury complicates matters, but will almost certainly be dealt, Calgary's Mike Cammalleri, Colorado's Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly (a RFA, but rumored to be available), and yes, even former Ranger Marian Gaborik–provided he's healed from a broken collarbone.
It's a forward-dominated list (Dan Boyle and Andrei Markov are UFA's, but won't be going anywhere), which works in the Blueshirts favor, since it appears Callahan is more likely to be moved than Girardi. Gaborik, if healthy, might be the best fit.
Remember, before being run out of town by General Tortorella, Gaborik posted two 40-goal seasons on Broadway–the only two years he actually played a full slate of games in New York–and under Alain Vigneault, would now be granted the freedom to create he was previously deprived of. Callahan would make sense for Columbus too–the Jackets seem to have embraced the type of one-for-all, all-for-one mentality the Rangers' captain stands for, and it would reunite him with former BFF Brandon Dubinsky.
It's all conjecture at this point, and there likely won't be any movement until the deadline, but the Rangers and Jackets have already pulled two blockbusters in the last 18 months, might they go for the hat trick?
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