Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Good Word

I asked a friend of mine the other day: "Hey, what's the good word?"

It's one of those throwaway questions you don't expect to get a real answer for. But my buddy's response:

"The good word is Kovalchuk."

From one Ranger fan to another, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The Rangers, right now, are a nice team. They're going to win more than they lose, and as long as Henrik Lundqvist is in goal, and as long as he continues to play his best hockey after the calendar turns, they'll always have a punchers chance to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. But don't expect the Rangers ... a team with no real identity ... to be much more than that, unless they are able to make a bold move in the trade market to bring in a dynamic player. Ilya Kovalchuk might be that player.

Now granted, there are a lot of hurdles to jump over if Kovalchuk is to become a Ranger. First and foremost is getting Don Waddell to trade him, which he recently said he wouldn't. But really, what would you expect him to say? "Yeah, we can't afford him so he's gone." Then what would you reasonably expect for him in return? In fact, ten days after Waddell said he wouldn't trade him, rumors of a Kovalchuk for Marian Gaborik swap surfaced.

With Gaborik's recent hip surgery, that deal is obviously off and the opportunity to bowl the Thrashers over for a deal is wide open. Hence the other huge hurdle: the Rangers cap room. There is none. And do the Rangers have enough in their system to give Atlanta to make the thought of taking a huge contract back for Kovalchuk more palatable for Waddell?

Would guys like Brandon Dubinsky and Petr Prucha do it? Because that's probably what it would take to even start conversations. With Dubinsky due to become a restricted free agent after this season, he might be a cap casualty anyway. He'd be a tough player to give up, as he is probably a future captain of this team (he even looks like a young Rod Gilbert). But to make a bold move to get a guy like Kovalchuk, it's something worth thinking about if you want your Rangers to take the next step.

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