At first glance of the Rangers' current lineup, there is one glaring need and that is for a bona fide first line center. The Rangers haven't had one since Michael Nylander centered Jagr a few years back. Some may even argue that Nylander leached onto Jagr. Either way, the need for a center in this organization has been there for too long now. With a star player like Gaborik on RW, the Rangers must find him a center fast.
Derek Stepan could be the answer. However, it seems that the line of Fedotenko, Stepan, and Avery might stick for a solid third line. Anisimov could also be the answer, but he is best suited playing on the second line with Frolov. So what can the Rangers do?
For months now, there has been word coming from the rumor mill that Rangers GM Glen Sather may have legitimate interest in Florida center Stephen Weiss, a former top pick that is finally coming into his own. Both teams denied such rumors as per team policy. However, with the emergence of this rumor from the reliable Zipay and the Rangers' everlasting quest for their No. 1 center, it seems as the search has culminated and for once everything makes sense.
The Panthers are looking to rebuild and Weiss isn't getting younger. The Rangers are looking to make the playoffs again and they are missing a key cog. It seems simple, but you have to give a lot to get a lot in this business.
There have been a few rumors since Zipay's tweet saying that "Dubinsky, Gilroy, + may go to Florida for Stephen Weiss." I'm a huge Dubinsky advocate and there are a few question marks regarding Weiss' game, but that's a deal I don't pass on. Weiss, 26, has a cap-friendly $3.1-million cap hit through the 2014 season and scored 28 goals and 60 points on an abysmal Panthers team last season. He could easily surpass 70 points playing with Gaborik on his wing. The plus could be a first-round pick or it could be a low-tier prospect. It doesn't matter. Sather wants to win now so he should work with that same mentality. First line centers don't grow on trees, but players like Brandon Dubinsky do.
One other priority of the Rangers is deciding what to do with defenseman Michael Sauer. Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Phoenix Coyotes have expressed explicit interest in him, but should the Rangers trade him? Back when the Rangers drafted Sauer in 2005, I dreamt of a Staal-Sauer pairing. My dream is possible, but is it worth it?
Sauer has showed the ups and downs in his game this preseason as a three-year pro and hasn't impressed me as a fan much. I haven't noticed him at all, which should be a good thing since he is a "shutdown" defenseman and as the saying goes, "It's better to not notice a defenseman in a game than to notice him." He's still young and hasn't reached his ceiling yet, but in my opinion, he should be traded while his stock is high. If Sather doesn't and Sauer doesn't make the team, down the waiver wire he goes and some lucky team will get him for free since Sauer is not exempt from waivers.
The reported offer for Sauer (from a source close to the organization) from Phoenix is one of Victor Tikhonov or Brett MacLean. Tikhonov will most probably end up as a shutdown, two-way third liner with second-line potential while MacLean has all the tools to be a top-six sniper. A one-for-one for either of those two players is a win in my book.
If Tikhonov and MacLean aren't Sather's cup of tea, the Blue Jackets might be willing to let a potential No. 1 center in Derick Brassard go for Sauer-plus. At least that's what I'm hearing
The Rangers have a lot of raw, young talent in camp and they want to win now. They're only a few pieces away from being a contender. They have an elite goaltender, an elite winger, and growing D corps. They could use another elite winger, but in today's NHL, no one goes anywhere without an elite center and some depth.
Stay tuned for more updates coming soon!
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