By: Michael Abitabilo
While it might be too little too late, the New York Rangers addressed one of their most glaring needs by acquiring Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks in advance of the 2013 trading deadline.
The 2013 Rangers have been too easy to play against all season, seemingly lacking the grit and toughness that has become their hallmark under coach John Tortorella. In Clowe, the Rangers have obtained a big, strong, skilled player – a guy who can do all the things Brian Boyle is supposed to do. Clowe should help fill a void left by the offseason departure of the two Brandons – Prust and Dubinsky. He is exactly the type of player toward whom Rangers fans tend to gravitate.
As we have seen with other trades in recent days, the price for Clowe was steep. The Rangers gave up their second and third round picks in 2013, and a fifth round pick in 2014, which becomes a second round pick if the Rangers advance to the conference finals this season or resign Clowe, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent season’s end. This trade is a sign that the Rangers’ front office still thinks this team can not only make the playoffs, but make a long playoff run. If they did not, there is no way they would have given up three draft picks for a player who might only play 13 games for the franchise.
Regardless of whether they make the playoffs, the Rangers will likely try to resign Clowe in the off-season. Along with players like David Clarkson of the Devils and Nathan Horton of the Bruins, Clowe will be among a small pool of free agents who aren’t just “sandpaper” players but also contribute offensively. Players such as this are a valuable commodity in today’s NHL. Last off-season, the Rangers were unwilling to match the four year, $10 million offer Prust received from the Montreal Canadiens, but would undoubtedly sign Clowe to that deal right now. Unfortunately (and fortunately) for the Rangers, Clowe is a much better player than Prust – having averaged over 20 goals in his last four seasons – meaning he will likely command a four year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million. If the Rangers can move Brian Boyle and his $1.7 million cap hit either before today’s trade deadline or during the off-season, they would likely be willing to commit the necessary dollars to sign Clowe.