It was 22 years ago when the Rangers concluded trade deadline deals which eventually won them the 1994 Stanley Cup.
Hey, the Blueshirts may have done it again this Leap Year as the dauntless 2016 Trade Deadline Derby officially is over.
Granted that this time around, Jeff Gorton didn’t match the quantity amassed by Neil Smith in ’94, but the gem the Blueshirts’ GM garnered in Eric Staal could catapult the Rangers into Champagne-land.
“Eric could be energized by this trade,” enthused Gorton. “We know him as well as anybody. Surrounding him with the players we have, we’ll get a lot out of him.”
In addition to adding a scoring machine to his roster, coach Alain Vigneault obtains a 31-year-old with considerable leadership ability, which was amply demonstrated as captain of the Hurricanes.
“He’ll be excited to play for the Rangers,” added Gorton.
Looking ahead to June, Vigneault is secure in the knowledge that the elder Staal (Marc is 29) will enhance the Rangers Cup dreams. “Our core group deserves another kick at the can,” noted Vigneault.
Eric lines up on a club that preserved its roster without losing a single significant skater; not even the oft-discussed Chris Kreider. Plus, the eventual return of Rick Nash should provide more playoff power.
The fact that large Eric now will share the ice with kid brother Marc had no influence on the acquisition. “We didn’t bring him in because of what Marc’s doing,” asserted Gorton. “It’s all about Eric.”
What we already know is that the elder of three Staal NHL brothers — Marc and Jordan (27) being the others — guided Carolina to its only Stanley Cup in 2006.
He was an imposing presence both as a scorer and body checker — ask Marc — and has ranked among offensive threats for the past decade.
“He doesn’t have to be a star presence on the Rangers,” observes my sage Rangers-follower buddy, Gus Vic. “He just needs to be a presence. With the eventual return of Nash, the club is better-positioned to handle heavier opponents such as the Capitals.
One thing the Blueshirts have, in addition to gaining Staal, is a winning pedigree throughout the room. Looking forward, it is one advantage they have over all other Eastern Conference teams.”
Gorton’s trick — as it is with bosses in Los Angeles, Washington and other competitive points, East and West — is to find a formula that can topple Chicago from its championship defense.
Blackhawks Mister Trade, Stan Bowman, made a flurry of deals in pursuit of a second straight Cup which — think about it — doesn’t happen anymore. But give Swapping Stan credit for trying.
Bowman loaded up his defending Champs with the likes of Andrew Ladd, Christian Ehrhoff, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.
The quantity sure looks impressive as does the balance of talent, grit and experience. But it’s all on paper and guarantees nothing in terms of real time series victories in the Spring.
Meanwhile, Dale Tallon — Bowman’s predecessor in the Windy City — is telling his colleagues that his Florida Panthers are as serious about a Cup run as the Rangers or anyone else for that matter.
Knowing that Jaromir Jagr can only tap the Fountain of Youth so many times, Tallon has bolstered his Panthers by adding solid second line right wing Teddy Purcell from Edmonton as well as starboard-sider Jiri Hudler from Calgary, and backliner Jakub Kindl via Detroit.
Hudler is the perfect fit alongside fellow Czech Jagr, who also happens to speak the same language as Kindl. Czech-mates, so to speak.
Based on their regular season runaway, the Capitals are trying to ensure a long postseason by loading up their already potent arsenal.
Starting with the acquisition of defenseman Mike Weber from Buffalo, Washington’s GM Brian MacLellan added center Ryan Bourque — once a Rangers prospect — and left wing Daniel Winnik, out of the Toronto Housecleaning Bureau.
Then again, there are those execs who believe that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Garth Snow has just about every piece in place. Which explains why the Islanders boss did very little and corralled Ottawa’s 23-year-old left wing Shane Prince. The Senators got a third-round pick in return. On a smaller scale, the Isles moved little-used right wing Taylor Beck to Colorado for center Marc-Andre Cliche.
Across the Hudson, Ray Shero‘s overachieving Devils entered the final trade weekend on the outside of Wild Card Land — but not that far – three points back of Pittsburgh.
Under the circumstances, New Jersey’s hockey boss opted to make some interesting 11th-hour moves.
The big one was dispatching prolific right wing Lee Stempniak to Boston for a 2016 fourth-rounder and a 2017 second-rounder.
A potential winner for Shero was receiving from Montreal right wing Devante Smith-Pelly, 23, for disappointing Stefan Matteau. In addition, erratic defenseman Eric Gelinas was dispatched to Colorado for a third-rounder in 2017.
Right after that, Shero refilled the D-gap by claiming defenseman David Warsofsky on waivers from the Penguins. The total New Jersey exchange could be called addition by subtraction.
And there’s every hope that Stempniak, who made it clear that he enjoys playing for the Devils, will re-sign with them during the summer.
Based on the “Less is More” theory, Pittsburgh’s Jim Rutherford made one meaningful move. He bolstered his defense, plucking Justin Schultz from Edmonton for a third-rounder. In the end, that could be one of the best returns of any.
Freed from the disorganized Oilers, the once highly-touted Schultz could blossom into a Top-4 D-man adding to a Pitt team steaming toward a playoff berth.
Like the Penguins, the Blackhawks, Rangers and Panthers picked up usable assets without tapping existing rosters. That’s from the song “Nice Work If You Can Get It — And You Can Get It If You Try.”
Meanwhile, the annual playoff failure from Missouri appears to have failed again. The Blues did nothing of consequence and that includes adding goaltender — ex-Islander — Anders Nilsson who has shown nothing but bulk wherever he’s played. Bottom Line: The Blues are not keeping pace with their Western competitors.
And that means coach Ken Hitchcock will be a goner if St. Louis fails to make the Western Final. General Manager Doug Armstrong is on the spot as well.
By contrast to the Blues, San Jose added a pair of vital pieces when GM Doug Wilson wrangled defenseman Roman Polak and center Nick Spaling from the Maple Leafs for a pair of picks; not to mention enigmatic Toronto goalie James Reimer.
Cup-winners in 2014, Los Angeles remains a formidable contender although their adds — right wing Kris Versteeg from Carolina and defenseman Rob Scuderi, via Chicago — are less notable.
Desperate to regain its past glory, the Avalanche grabbed the much-sought left wing Mikkel Boedker from Arizona. The cost was left wing vet Alex Tanguay, center Conner Bleackley and defenseman Kyle Wood.
Suspect on defense, the otherwise strong Dallas Stars filled a need by capturing blue-liner Kris Russell, a terrific shot-blocker, from Calgary. In return, the Flames received defender Jyrki Jokipakka, a Dallas full-timer, and center prospect Brett Pollock, plus a conditional second-rounder.
The Surprise Steal Award goes to Anaheim GM Bob Murray for talking the Panthers Dale Tallon into dispatching gifted shooter Brandon Pirri to the Ducks for a sixth-rounder.
As an added fillip, the Ducks added Buffalo’s left wing Jamie McGinn for a conditional third-rounder.
Looking ahead, what does this all mean for the locals?
DEVILS: Shero’s overachieving club has been — and will continue to be — in a rebuilding stage. His players still believe that a playoff berth is in sight. And if New Jersey does miss the postseason, at least, Garden State fans remain secure in the knowledge that they made a good try. Unloading Gelinas and Matteau amounted to discarding players who simply couldn’t click after several tries. The hope is that Stempniak will be back.
ISLANDERS: From opening night to Game 82, the aim has been and will be making the playoffs. Period. Once that’s accomplished, a move past the first round is Objective Two. To that end, Snow’s add of Prince could turn into royalty down the line.
RANGERS: It’s all about the New Staal on Seventh Avenue and what he can do to enhance an already superior lineup from goal to fourth-liners. When Eric joined hands with Marc, it gave the Rangers a much better opportunity to win the Cup. It can be safely said that the Blueshirts are not “Staal-ing” anymore!