The New York Rangers are placing all bets on a Stanley Cup run this season.
The Rangers haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the 1993-94 season, but made a bold trade on Wednesday’s deadline day that a franchise typically makes when it feels its just one piece short for a Stanley Cup run.
New York sent captain Ryan Callahan, along with first- and second-round draft picks, to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis, a dynamic, game-changing goal-scorer.
But at age 38, it’s unclear how much longer St. Louis’s career will last. The veteran is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2014-2015 season.
As far as this year is concerned, St. Louis is a strong pickup for New York. The Rangers, who are ranked No. 19 in offense, could certainly use a boost in scoring if the team hopes to make a deep playoff run. St. Louis brings the ability to create plays from anywhere on the ice, after leading the NHL in scoring last year.
He arrives in New York with 61 points (29 goals, 32 assists) in 62 games, which is 17 points more than Ranger leader Brad Richards. The deal also reunites St. Louis with Richards, who was his Lightning teammate when Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
“Marty is obviously an elite player with an elite skill level,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told reporters. “We’re losing our captain, so obviously there is going to be an impact in the room, but bringing in this type of player should help ease the transition.
“I really believe this makes us a better team.”
But if the Rangers advance to this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, than the second-round pick becomes a first-rounder in June’s draft. That would mean the franchise would go three consecutive years without a first-round pick, as New York lost its 2013 first-rounder because of a trade with Columbus for Rick Nash.
That could have major effects in the future, but St. Louis feels the Rangers have everything in place to win the Stanley Cup this season.
“We’re in the thick of things here, this is a really crucial time of the season,” St. Louis said, according to the New York Post. “Those 14 years were great years in Tampa, but this is a new chapter in my life and I’m really excited about it.”
The Rangers’ GM said he had another deal on the table that would have benefitted the Rangers “more in the future.” That other potential trade partner was the San Jose Sharks, according to an ESPN report. However, Sather said he saw no “guarantee” in the upcoming draft class and instead valued how St. Louis’s acquisition leaves New York’s salary-cap “more open down the road.”
St. Louis, who's salary will be a cap hit of $5.625 million next season, asked Tampa Bay to trade him to the Rangers when Team Canada and Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman snubbed him for selection to the Canadian Olympic Team in January. Meanwhile, Callahan’s contract expires at the end of the season, and he had been asking for a six-year, $39 million deal with a no-trade clause. The Rangers didn’t match their captain’s request, and therefore, Rangers GM Glen Sather decided to trade the 28-year-old.
“I want to thank Ryan and his family for everything,” Sather said to reporters before New York’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto Wednesday. “He’s a hard-working, tenacious, gritty hockey player, but I think the guy coming in gives us the chance to advance farther than we expected this year.”
The Rangers have 70 points after 63 games, which currently puts them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. In their next 19 games, 12 are on the road. The Rangers have an 18-11-0 away record this season.
Greg Price and an IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.