1. Everybody’s already discussing it. Brough alluded to the Rangers’ interest in welcoming Mike Santorelli to the trade rumor mill, and over the weekend all the local rags — Post, Daily News and Record — had some variation of the same story, playing off this quote from head coach Alain Vigneault:
“If we can improve ourselves and become a better team, we’re gonna do that. We’re no different than any other team now. But so far, I’ve liked the way our team has progressed. I’ve liked how certain individuals have progressed.
“We’ve got a little bit of time here to sort things out, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”
The talk, primarily, is about strengthening New York’s center position, specifically the third-line role currently filled by rookie Kevin Hayes. Depth down the middle has been an issue for this club this season, especially after losing Brad Richards and Brian Boyle during the summer, though it’s fair to suggest the Rangers could be primed to do more than add a bottom-six center. Why? Because…
2. GM Glen Sather has a history of big deadline deals. Last year Slats co-orchestrated the Martin St. Louis-for-Ryan Callahan blockbuster, which continued in his string of significant moves; the year prior, he flipped Marian Gaborik to Columbus for a trio of players that included Derick Brassard, and also acquired Ryane Clowe from San Jose.
Sather also has a few assets to deal. Teams looking to acquire young defensemen might look the way of Brady Skjei or Dylan McIlrath (though it’s tough to gauge the latter’s market value, given he’s yet to establish himself at the NHL level.)
3. The Rangers are in go-for-it mode. The window is now, and it’s open. The reigning Eastern Conference champs are probably more aware than anyone that the east is up for grabs; last season, the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final despite heading into the playoffs as the “five” seed (Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Montreal all finished with more points) and parity appears to be almost equal this season.
So, who are the Blueshirts going to target?
One would have to think Coyotes center Antoine Vermette is at the top of their wist list. He’d be an ideal addition down the middle and would have some chemistry with Brassard and Rick Nash, his former Blue Jackets teammates (from 2009-12). The Vermette bidding war is expected to be high, however, and the Rangers are at a disadvantage without a first-round pick at the ’15 Entry draft, sent to Tampa Bay in the St. Louis deal.
David Legwand could be another name to keep an eye on. The veteran center seems to have fallen out of favor with new Ottawa head coach Dave Cameron, and Sens GM Bryan Murray admitted Legwand could be on the move. At 34, Legwand has the veteran experience Vigneault likes; Vigneault would also be familiar with the ex-Predator from his coaching days in Vancouver (most notably the ’11 playoffs, when the Canucks ousted Nashville in Round 2.)