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The Rangers have had a bit of a rough season this year in the NASHL. After losing GM Al to the Winnipeg Jets, The Rangers moved quickly and hired Hussain as the new GM, and he went to work immediately, making 9 trades in just under a month.
In: Derian Hatcher, Byron Dafoe, Jason Morgan, Dainius Zubrus, Mike Watt, Joe Corvo, Bill Houlder, Sven Butenschon, Chris Wells, Trent Klatt, Marcus Nilsson, Prospect Josef Melichar, Prospect Jason Chimera, Florida’s 1st in 2000, LA’s 1st in 2001, $400k
Out: Alexei Kovalev, Darryl Sydor, Martin Lapointe, Steve Thomas, Tom Barasso, Bob Probert, Gord Murphy, Alexander Karpovtsev, Espen Knutsen, Boyd Devereaux, JJ Daigneault, Maxim Galanov, Prospect Martin Erat, Phoenix’s 1st in 2000, Detroit’s 2nd in 2000, Dallas’ 3rd in 2000, NYR’s 3rd in 2001
Players acquired and subsequently traded: Tony Amonte, Josh Langfeld, Edmonton’s 3rd in 2000
The full rebuild has begun. “When I joined the organization, the team didn’t have a clear direction. I felt that the team was in a state where a full rebuild was the appropriate course of action,” said GM Hussain at the post trade-deadline press conference.
The Rangers acquired some good young defensemen (Corvo, Butenschon, Melichar), some good young forwards (Morgan, Zubrus, Watt, Wells, Chimera), got a legitimate goalie in Byron Dafoe, and a true number 1 shutdown defenseman in Derian Hatcher, and also got rid of some of the dead weight. The average age of the starting roster went from 27.7 to 23.7. The Rangers now have 6 solid young defensemen age 27 or younger, 5 of whom are under the age of 24. The top 12 forwards are set going into next season, 9 of whom are currently 23 years old or younger, and including JS Aubin, who is only 22, next year’s roster will be the youngest in the league by a wide margin. Going into next season, we will have only 5 players aged 25 or older on the pro roster.
Aubin has had an audition to grab the starters role in net, but so far he has not fared well, posting a 3-10-3 record, 4.09 gaa, 0.868 save percentage, so the team went out and acquired goalie Byron Dafoe. “Getting Byron was important because we didn't want to go into the draft needing a goalie, its the most important position, but there's no guarantee of a lottery win even when finishing last, so we didn't want to worry about whether we won or not, we wanted to go into next season knowing that we have someone reliable and capable of carrying this team forward for the next few seasons while we develop out prospects and players, and we have JS Aubin, who we believe will be a very capable starting goalie in the future. This puts us in the comfortable position of being able to pick the best player at our spot, instead of having to focus on a specific position.”
But the most important pickup for this team so far has been Derian Hatcher. “Hatcher has been such a solid pickup for the team, he has made Johnsson so much better, the difference has been remarkable. Derian has shown to be a true leader for this team.”Hatcher and Johnsson were immediately paired together, and in the 14 games since, Hatcher has 3 goals, 5 assists, totaling 8 points, he’s +7, and is averaging over 25 minutes a game. Johnsson in those 14 games has exploded with 3 goals and 11 assists totaling 14 points, is also +7, and is averaging over 23 minutes a game.
The Rangers are currently last in the NASHL, and seem like a lock to get at least a top 3 pick. Any of Lundqvist, Gaborik or Heatley would be a huge addition to the team next season. “We’ve tried to pick up some defensively oriented players for our future, we believe a defense-first system is vital to success. Everyone expects next year to be a painful rebuilding year, we intend to minimize the pain with a strong defensive game. The goals will come in time.“
Rumour has it that GM Hussain will be looking to trade Florida’s 1st round pick to move up into the top 10-15 of the draft.