By the time the buzzer sounded and 3 p.m. eastern on Monday rolled around, the Rangers trade dealings had been almost 22 hours in the books, but that is not to say it wasn’t a busy stretch for the Broadway Blueshirts. On Sunday, the Rangers made a big splash with the acquisition of defenseman Keith Yandle, as well as a series of other smaller moves to shore up some remaining holes in their roster in preparation for what is expected to be a deep run into the post-season.
The action picked up late in the afternoon on Sunday when news broke that the Rangers were in deep talks with Arizona regarding Yandle. One thing led to another, and despite the initial inaccurate reports that Dan Girardi was being shipped the other way, the 28-year-old defensemen did eventually land himself a gig in the Big Apple. The obvious upside is the fact that Yandle, who is a talented offensively minded blue-liner that can produce points on the power play the way a power play quarter back should be able to, has now made one of the league’s strongest and deepest defense cores even deeper. And better yet for the Rangers, they’re only responsible for half of his $5.25 million salary over the next two seasons.
McDonagh on Yandle: “Always got his head up looking to make plays…Great to see management want to improve our team that way”
— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) March 3, 2015
Of course what they sent to the desert isn’t anything to sneeze at, as Anthony Duclair was one of the most promising Rangers prospects in recent memory, John Moore was a young defensemen who will only continue to mature as a player, and a first-round pick is, well, just that. It was a high price to pay, but it was a move that Sather said was made easier by the recent emergence of Kevin Hayes. It was also a transaction which signaled that this team is primed and ready to make a run. It’s a sign that there are no longer any options aside from winning the Stanley Cup, and as Arizona’s GM Don Maloney said of Yandle, he could be the final piece to a Stanley Cup winning team.
Glen Sather then proceeded to make a couple of other smaller moves before the weekend was finished. He first sent fourth-line forward Lee Stempniak to Winnipeg in exchange for minor-leaguer Carl Klingberg in what was more or less a small cap dump. That gave the team a bit of breathing room to bring in both James Sheppard from San Jose, a guy who may or may not be used as a bottom-six forward primarily for faceoffs, as well as to re-sign the hobbit himself, Mats Zuccarello.
While the Zuccarello extension was not confirmed until early Monday evening, the deal to keep him in New York was all but official come sundown on Sunday. The extension, which is for four years, is worth $18 million with an AAV of $4.5 million per. After a start to the weekend where it appeared Zuccarello might be on the move, the end result was to keep to the Norwegian in New York, and acquire a top-tier defensemen without giving very much in terms of the current roster at hand.
It was a complete 180 from what initially appeared to be unfolding.
It is true that a big part of the future was sent away this deadline, but the Rangers obviously feel, for good reason, that the time is now. The team has bettered themselves in hopes of achieving the ultimate dream, and that message was conveyed loud and clear on Sunday. A move may not have been made on deadline day itself as has become pretty typical of Sather, but it was a huge weekend for the Rangers whichever way you slice it.
High Caliber Win
In the Rangers’ first contest post-deadline on Monday, the squad played like a group relieved to have the sea of uncertainty behind them. It was a relentless 60 minute effort which powered the Blueshirts to a convincing 4-1 win over the top team in the National Hockey League.
The man whose future remained unknown until late Sunday was the one who led the way for the Rangers on Monday. A spirited two-assist evening from Mats Zuccarello, combined with goals from Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Dominic Moore, and Rick Nash, as well as a stellar 25 save performance from Cam Talbot, was enough for the Rangers to kick off the drive to the post-season on the right foot.
While the Rangers were still unable to hit the 50% mark with regard to faceoffs, as they won 31 of the game’s 67 draws, they were able to outshoot the Predators 40-26, and the defense gave Nashville very little from the high percentage areas. The pressure on all three penalty kills was also unwavering, and allowed the Predators very little room to work. Put that all together, and you’ve got an impressive victory over a very strong Nashville team.
In Monday’s win, the Rangers put new meaning to the old adage that a good defense is the best offense. If that’s the type of play we’re going to see from the Rangers moving forward, this spring could develop into something special for the New York Rangers.
Quick hits from Monday’s win:
- Tanner Glass recorded an assist on Dominic Moore’s goal. The helper was Glass’s third point of the season.
- Chris Kreider’s goal was his 17th of the season. That ties his career high which he set last season.
- In his Rangers debut, Keith Yandle had three shots on goal in 19:41 of ice time, and was a minus-one.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.