Blue Skies on Blueshirts Horizon After Deadline

The trade frenzy is over; blood pressure pills and aspirins can be put aside for the moment — unless, of course, post-deal sedatives still are needed.

Rangers blockbuster moves such as Michael Grabner to the Devils and Rick Nash to the Bruins further fulfilled the Glen SatherJeff Gorton promise to streamline their skaters and speed in the right direction.

Then Jeff tossed a last-minute match on the trading TNT with an 11th-and-a-half-hour move, dispatching captain Ryan McDonagh and left wing J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay for a bundle of gifted prospects.

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton talks about dealing captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning, what the Blueshirts got in return in the trade and the areas where he thinks the team still needs improvement.

Inside the Lightning gift wrapping, the Blueshirts unearthed something resembling Christmas in February.

To wit:

1. Center Vladislav Namestnikov; 2. Center Brett Howden; 3. Defenseman Libor Hajek; as well as a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 conditional first-round pick.

Now the ex-Rangers captain, McDonagh will be a teammate of another former Blueshirt who wore the “C,” Ryan Callahan, as well as ex-New Yorkers Anton Stralman and dauntless Dan Girardi.

Or as my trusty sidekick, Gabbi Riggi puts it, “Like some New Yorkers, they picked up and moved to Florida.” (Mind you, that’s not The Maven’s line.)

Regarding Grabner, for the Blueshirts, there was a tangential effect since New Jersey’s drive to solidify a playoff berth is rooted in the Grabner grab and was underlined with Saturday night’s 2-1 win over the Islanders.

Now we must X-Ray the results and determine how the Rangers moves — and non-moves — have positioned the team for the months and seasons ahead.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks Wednesday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]


Bye-bye Nick Holden, hello Rob O’Gara. The Blueshirts unloaded a third-pair defender who played some good hockey for them in spots. New York also gets a third-round 2018 draft pick.

Call it a draw until we have a year’s worth of O’Gara looks. Conceivably, Rob could turn into a young Ryan McDonagh; and wouldn’t that be nice.

One scout puts it this way: “O’Gara could supplement the bottom D-pairing. Responsible defensively, he was key at Yale pushing the puck to the periphery as well as blocking and clearing the zone.”

For the Rangers to get a roster player in O’Gara and a pick in exchange for a UFA is a good investment.

Rob O’Gara, who was acquired in a trade with the Bruins, talks about growing up an Islander fan and now having the chance to find a role with the Rangers.


Au Revoir Michael Grabner; bonjour Yegor Rykov. For starters, this is a shocker among shockers simply because this is the first Rangers-Devils deal in 35 years of the Devils’ existence. From the Blueshirts’ end, Grabner had to be moved because he’s a UFA and the Rangers are in the midst of a publically-acknowledged rebuild. Plus, New York gets a second-rounder in the package.

The equation Gorton had to solve involved losing the Rangers’ leading scorer over the last two years and what it means to the club, long-term. Of course, it won’t mean a thing if after Michael completes his “rental” he returns to Seventh Avenue.

When I asked Jeff Gorton about making a first-ever Rangers-Devils deal, he replied, “If I can make a trade that helps my team, it wouldn’t matter which team I trade with. Same goes with my former club, the Bruins.”

As for youthful (20) Rykov, he’s not flashy but does nearly everything well. That includes making a good first pass and playing well in his own end. Yegor was a teammate of Pavel Datsyuk on SKA St. Petersburg.

Rykov could have future ties to the Blueshirts since fellow Ranger goalie prospect Igor Shestyorkin has worn the SKA sweater for a few years. Rykov also could prove a catalyst for Ilya Kovalchuk to sign on with the New Yorkers. Trouble is, Rykov has two more years (2019) on his KHL contract. The trick will be finding a way out of the pact.


Adios Rick Nash; Buenos días to a first-round pick in 2018, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, forwards Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and a seventh-round pick in the 2019 Draft.

Sather and Gorton are the clear winners, replenishing their roster for the future. No matter how you shake it, Alain Vigneault needed more red lights from Rick in the fall and early winter.

The Rangers receive a useful RFA in Spooner, the hope that Beleskey finds his scoring touch of yesteryear, yet another defensive prospect in Lindgren — The Maven’s choice as the real sleeper — and the pair of draftees to come later.

As my Bruins-Rangers-keen-watcher Gus Vic opines, “If two of the prospects from the Holden/Grabner/Nash deals pan out, two-to-three of the nine picks this year become bonafide NHLers — and the Blueshirts smartly splash in the free agent pool, the club’s turnaround could be quick and make the core-gutting worthwhile.”

Also, figure the Boston panic into Boston’s interest in the deal. When Patrice Bergeron left Air Canada Centre in a walking boot after the recent Maple Leafs game, the Bruins were dealing from a point of weakness.

Alain Vigneault talks about how difficult it is to trade away a player like Rick Nash and what the Rangers are getting in return from Ryan Spooner.


To some of the Blueshirt faithful, the dismissing of McDonagh is a craw-sticker because the defenseman had built a strong following over the previous years. Ryan was well-liked up and down the line, from fans to media to the general staff.

When I directly — and first in line — asked Gorton on Sunday night at The Garden about a possible McDonagh deal, he demurred. After all, he had done all the dealing over the weekend but that, significantly, didn’t mean Monday.

Yes, siree, Bob, there still was time and, sure enough, Gorton answered the question I directly put to him at 6 p.m. last night at The Garden. “WHAT ABOUT MCDONAGH?”

The answer was abundant and now that the deadline has come and gone, we must ask the pertinent question: What does all this, all mean?

It means that Sather and Gorton were true to their words of a few weeks ago that their club would be revitalized with new faces, new spirit and much good beyond the Blueshirt horizon.

McDonagh has been in the Top-20 of the Norris Trophy possibility five times in his eight-year career.

But Sather and Gorton now have enough prospects around which to build a throbbing new contender which next will require honing to sharpness. That will immediately begin at Vancouver on Wednesday night.

Bottom Line

The high command was true to its word and now Rangers fans can sing a chorus of “There’s Gonna Be A Great Day” with a good measure of conviction.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks Wednesday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]