The Devils’ strength of 2002-03 was at the back. New Jersey had a six-deep defense that included The Great Scotts in Stevens and Niedermayer, along with Brian Rafalski, Colin White, Ken Daneyko, Oleg Tverdovsky and Tommy Albelin playing in front of Martin Brodeur in prime time.
The club suffered up front, however, its 216-goal output earned it eighth in the East and 14th overall in the NHL. Top scorer Patrik Elias recorded 57 points, the lowest total to beat the Devils since the franchise’s first year in New Jersey in 1982-83, when Aaron Broten led with 55 points.
Still, the Devils were in Cup contention playing a strict defensive game style under Pat Burns that, by comparison, made former coach Jacques Lemaire seem like a wild, crazy guy. As the trade deadline approached, GM Lou Lamoriello was obviously looking for a better gun.
No, he obviously wasn’t. Instead, Lamoriello acquired depth defender Dickie Smehlik from the Sabers and sixth down Grant Marshall from the Blue Jackets. Instead of filling a noticeable weakness, the Devils doubled down on strength.
Sixteen playoff victories later, New Jersey had clinched its third Stanley Cup in nine years of excellence with Marshall proving key up front and Smehlik dressing for five games in the tournament.
Nineteen years later, across the Hudson, the Rangers approach the March 21 trade deadline with a need for a top six from the right wing to bolster their five-on-five offense. . While Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider represent marquee assets up front, the club’s strength lies in its rear, with Igor Shesterkin in net behind a group of Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider.
Indeed, the Blueshirts entered Tuesday night’s game at the Garden against Anaheim 18th overall in goals per game, 22nd in goals against five and third in goals against per game. So it stands to reason that GM Chris Drury (yes, the chairman too) would be looking to fill that cavity on the right side of the front six.
And Drury will probably try to do so if the price is right. However, a person familiar with the Rangers approach told us the general manager was loath to use a top-notch asset in exchange for a hire such as the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell, the 28-year-old who was Zibanejad. teammate of the Swedish team at the 2018 World Championships.
There is also a desire to improve what has been a washed-out third line for most of the season, with Andrew Copp or perhaps even Alex Radulov a potential hire to fix that. Here’s the question, though: if the Blueshirts acquire a top-sixer plus a third line, where does Kaapo Kakko go after his yet-to-be-determined return from injured reserve, or is it Alexis Lafrenière? That’s for another day.
But I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks there have been noticeable concerns that have developed around defence, perhaps more so around the collective five-man approach, but also focused on the body of the blue line. It may have been the perceived lack of depth on offense that prompted head coach Gerard Gallant to outfit seven defensemen in Winnipeg on March 6 and Dallas on Saturday, but the move also speaks to the need for insurance. basic.
Still, Rangers had conceded 15 goals in the three games leading up to Tuesday and had allowed three or more goals in five of their last seven games after giving up just as many once in the previous seven games. The number of Grade A scoring chances that Igor Shesterkin (and/or Alexandar Georgiev) faced increased in conjunction with poor puck handling decisions and coverage errors in the defensive zone.
The Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox leading pair has faltered in recent weeks, but there is no legitimate option to take Lindgren’s place in the club’s top tandem. No legit options on the list now, that is.
So I wonder if Drury’s priority should be adding a Lend-Lease left-back who would ideally represent a third pair improvement over Patrik Nemeth, but could also take on the responsibility of playing opposite Fox if needed. Yes, I am thinking of Mark Giordano from Seattle and Hampus Lindholm from Anaheim.
The Ducks traded right-back Josh Manson to Colorado on Monday in exchange for a 2023 second-rounder and Boston College defenseman Drew Helleson, the U.S. Olympian expected to be a third-pair player in the NHL.
Does that translate to a bundle of a second this year — the Blueshirts have theirs and St. Louis’s — plus maybe Matthew Robertson for Giordano or Lindholm? Is Robertson considered a top notch asset? That’s probably more than Drury would pay to hire a striker, but it might not be an overpayment for a defender who can play game minutes on first pair.
This is where I would stay focused as March 21 approaches.
New York Post