The Rangers plan and system is again showing postive signs this year. Scotty Gomez is taking his foot off the break and showing why he was the breakdown specialist in NJ. Add a little Sean Avery to the Mix and the teams line combinations are starting to take shape. The Rangers have a nice balance of skill and grit on each line, and steady D-men running the points. With all the $ the Rangers have spent on early X-mas gifts ( Drury,Gomez),the team has found real a "shop-class special" with young Brandon Dubinsky. It's like giving mom or dad a gift made not picked up at the lunch lady holliday sale. The fans can really root for a kid who grew up watching the club and now centers the #1 line with Jagr on his flank. As Dubinsky gets stronger, we could see a player like Ryan Geztlaf blossom. The new NHL player with size and skill and a punch in the mouth as well.
Ryan Callahan has started to skate again and Marty Straka will be back again from his broken finger. Marik Malik is still fighting back issues, but he too will soon be skating again for the Blueshirts. The Rangers continue to win and develop chemisty with their on ice product. Scratching your head, you have to wonder where Tom Renney is going to place these players. The team is playing amazing lockdown defence and the "O" is coming too. However,the club still has some pieces to fill in if they plan on having a parade in June. With Hank playing 16 straight games momentum is one thing ,but not feeling comfortable with the backup is another. That comment may be a little unfair with Valiquette playing big in games for the Rangers in the past. Prior to the lockout, he stood on his head down in Philly after a late season dump deal from the Oilers. Let's not forget the turning point last year when Steve not Hank stepped in to beat the Blues in a Shootout thriller. This year has been different for the locker room good guy. Al Montoya outplayed him in camp drastically. If not for the larger contract Al would be with the big club. Al is a great player who reminds me of Ryan Miller,another former collagiate standout. In a preseason duel on Long Island Montoya pulled a Ronnie Hextall and fought "The 15 year kid " in a title match. His steady play looked NHL ready and the added fire is just what a Cup team needs. Hanks not going anywhere so lets move on and officially deal Monty. He has some health issues every year but his #1 upside holds excellent trade value.
I think these Jagr trade rumors may be brewing from the possibillity of his freinds Malik and Straka being dealt . Putting both of those players together with Montoya and maybe a pick could be attractive to a club looking to dump $. Mara makes money but plays a great all around game. Plus I would rather have him take a roughing minor than a lazy ( uh em # 8) hook. In seven games hitting,shooting,and tougness adds up. Not moving him and having on ice coach Strudwick playing is another key to the Rangers continued success. Struds has been great with Marc Staal,providing advise and dropping glove when he needs to. Putting this all together the team is winning with what it has on the ice. I think as they get closer to the deadline offering a team like Dallas ( who liked Montoya) a package for Zubov or another former Ranger Norstrom may make sense. Insiders think the JOVO deal is gonna be on the table all year too. His deal is scarey and another big name on broadway is another issue. But Renney's system makes the D shine, and Ed is providing great leadership to a rebuilding Phoenix Club. Finally,the Rangers should offer a package to Montreal for Halak. After moving Monty in a deal for a top defenceman suring up the backup role is a priority. Offering Straka and his expiring contract to the Habs with a pick or prospect could get it done. With Benoit Allaire as the Rangers goalie coach I could see him working wonders with the butterfly keeper.Working with European/Butterfly goalies is a trait that he and his brother Francois (Anaheim G-coach) have mastered. Anaheim adding another Butterfly keeper in Hiller is no fluke. Halak has already proven that he can play,putting together some wins for the Habs last year. With Price and Huet set in goal for Montreal its time to pass over the keys on Halak to Allaire. The worst case scenerio is another chip to move after Benny puts on the final touches. Mix him in with Renney's system and you may see some good numbers for the young Slovak. More importantly your suring up the net for the Rangers now and adding another young player to the mix. Adding a vet like Esche or Cujo to the mix may be a little to late. Dave Scatchards tryout didn't work because you just can't miss NHL camp and hop into the mix. It's even harder for a goalie to step in and not only pick up wins but stay healthy in the process. Halak has been playing in Hamilton all season and is ready.
With more young blood on the way and depth up front the Rangers can afford to make a move. Using those spare parts may not only put the Rangers cup machine together,but keep another race car in the garage.
P.S. Congrats on the HOF MESS and CO.