Tonight the Rangers will face off against the Arizona Coyotes and a familiar face, Anthony Duclair. At the start of last year, the team was coming off an impressive Stanley Cup Final run and had reason for excitement with a young core already in place and several other prospects still in the pipeline.
Among those prospects was Duclair, a standout third round pick in 2013 who put up 99 points in 59 games his rookie year with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. Duclair would go on to impress with a point a game in the 2014 preseason and earn an opening night roster spot. That season he would struggle to find a groove at 19 years old. Despite flashes of athleticism, he was sent down after 18 games tallying only 7 points.
Later that season Glen Sather would make a major trade deadline move for the second year in a row in an attempt to add for the cup push. The trade sent Duclair and John Moore to Arizona for Keith Yandle and Chris Summers with the Rangers adding a first and second round pick for a fourth. The prior season, the deal sent a hefty haul south with then-captain Ryan Callahan, a first and second round pick fetching Martin St. Louis. In both instances the moves didn’t lead to a championship.
Hindsight does have its benefits but even at the time of the deals there were detractors of both moves and now with the smoke cleared it seems pretty cut and dry that these were shortsighted moves. One must concede that if a fifth banner stood in the Garden rafters all would have been validated but the simple long and short is they didn’t win the cup, leaving lookers on with concerns bordering on regrets.
For starters, Duclair, now on an inferior Coyotes team to start this season, is already showing the flashes of talent at age 20 that had so many excited. He has seven points in six games and his first career hat trick came last week. Ryan Callahan, whose situation is made a bit more complex based on his extortion of the Rangers prior to being traded, is an integral piece of a team that made it to the finals last year and looks poised for more success in the future.
While those two excel, Yandle’s struggles have been chronicled. He has failed to find a definitive role in among the best blue lines in hockey and the importance of his roster spot is impossible to negotiate without mentioning that the Rangers have an exciting young defense man in Dylan McIlrath scratched on a nightly basis. Martin St. Louis is no longer in the NHL after fizzling out late last year when he looked a half step slower and unable to produce consistently.
The disparity in performance for the players involved, which has a certain level of unpredictability to it, is underscored by the completely predictable value behind draft picks. Even with the Rangers likely to have late picks in upcoming drafts, the four combined picks they forfeited contain the potential for additions like Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Marc Staal, all of whom were drafted and grown in the system.
As is always the case, a Stanley Cup could fix all speculation and is a surefire way to silence any dissent. For now these trades look like they were unsuccessful based on the inability to produce rings in the short term and bleak outlook of watching Callahan and Duclair excel elsewhere while St. Louis remains retired and Yandle plays slightly above the level of a potential replacement.