This was a case of divine intervention and a trade by immaculate conception. This was the way it was meant to be. Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane back together again. Patrick Kane on Broadway.
These are the Rangers and they make no apologies for it. They are the Broadway Blueshirts and they are going for it in their own inimitable fashion.
There has never been a trade deadline quite like this one in which one Eastern power after another has loaded up, mostly at the expense of weak Western clubs. The Maple Leafs have added toughness cubed. The Lightning added another dollop of bottom-six sandpaper at an exorbitant price in an effort to win it again. The Devils acquired perhaps the best player on the market. The Bruins bolstered an otherwise powerhouse lineup. In other news, even the Islanders took a swing for the fences.
And the Rangers … the Rangers simply got the biggest name with the biggest résumé even if we all know that the winger is not 21 or 25 or 29 anymore. They got a triple Stanley Cup winner who has spent a career thriving under the spotlight and scoring important postseason goals.
Kane and Panarin. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Vlad Tarasenko and Vincent Trocheck. This is a Rockstar Top Six. Adam Fox and Igor Shesterkin. The Kids. These are the Bright Light Rangers.
General manager Chris Drury — and yes, with the enthusiastic support of chairman Jim Dolan — acquired Kane and Tarasenko (and defenseman Niko Mikkola) without subtracting from the Blueshirts’ present or jeopardizing their immediate future. I’d be more comfortable with the deal if the conditional second-rounder going to Chicago would turn into a first in 2024 or 2025 if the Blueshirts at least get to the Stanley Cup finals and not the conference finals — been there, done that, so what? — but apparently this is what it took.
There is only one objective here and that is to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 29 years and the second time since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President for the first time in 1940. Make no mistake. The methodical Drury, who was Kane’s teammate on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, is obsessed with ending this latest multi-decade drought.
Now, will it work? Are the Rangers built for the grind? Can they get to the net when they could not in their final four games against Tampa Bay in last year’s conference finals. Have they somehow misread the rock-paper-scissors postseason landscape by believing that skill can be decisive when push comes to shove and shove comes to assault and battery in the playoffs?
And this specifically relating to No. 88: Will Kane and Panarin be The Way They Were in Chicago when they collaborated so brilliantly across the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons before the Russian Rockette was sent to Columbus?
Will this be the Kane who scored seven goals in his last four games as a Blackhawk and not the one who recorded nine goals in his first 50 contests while apparently dealing with a hip issue? The Rangers are kind of counting on that.
Let’s just make this clear. Kane is no perimeter prancer. Neither, for that matter, is Tarasenko. The Rangers have bolstered their top six that for the last couple of years has been shy a right wing or two. Last year, Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp filled the holes following the deadline. Now, Drury has acquired a higher grade of rental properties, one of whom won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a 24-year-old in 2013. That would be No. 88.
Yes, everyone agrees the Rangers could use more muscle. That is why a few weeks ago I identified Tanner Jeannot as the trade target who should have been at the top of Drury’s wish list. But the way the team is constructed, Jeannot would have been a fourth-liner in New York when he really should be a third-line linchpin. But that can’t happen here with the Kids third in line on a three-scoring-line team.
I have said multiple times that the Rangers need a third line that is a shutdown, hard-edged, matchup unit. That is the type of reconstruction that would take place over the summer. The 1993-94 team did it at the deadline, shipping out skill in Tony Amonte, Mike Gartner and Todd Marchant for sandpaper role players Stephane Matteau, Glenn Anderson, Brian Noonan and Craig MacTavish but there was no cap back in the day and neither was there meaningful free agency.
When assessing Drury’s moves at this deadline, never forget that he could deal only in the rental market because of next year’s looming cap calamity. It is not as if he could get Timo Meier the way the Devils did. It is not as if he could have traded for Jordan Greenway or Nino Niederreiter, each of whom would have served a substantial postseason purpose.
You might think the Rangers would have been better off getting pending free agent Ryan O’Reilly, who went to Toronto. That’s a fair argument to advance. Except if he were in the middle of the second line, what about Trocheck? And if Trocheck were bumped to the third line, whither Filip Chytil?
Again, when it comes to Kane, we are hardly talking about a Fancypants. This isn’t a silky swirl against rock-ribbed toughness. This is a player who gets to the inside and can take your breath away at the same time. This is a player with 52 playoff goals in 136 games.
There are going to be challenges here as Kane attempts to adapt after 16 seasons in Chicago. The power play will have to be transformed again. Someone is going to be bumped from PP1 to PP2, which means someone else will be bumped from PP2 to the bench on man-advantages.
But here we are. These are the Rockstar Rangers and Kane is one of them. Of course he is. It was inevitable.
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