Bryan McCabe Makes Rangers Slightly Better, Which Is Actually Pretty Impressive

Florida Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe (24) in the Florida Panthers 2-1 shootout victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena in Atlanta Georgia

The New York Rangers were kind of smart in trading for defenseman Bryan McCabe.

First of all, they didn’t give up very much. Just Tim Kennedy, who seems to have been accidentally been signed in the off-season and was never really given a shot to return to the NHL, and a third-round draft pick.

In return, the Rangers got back an aging defenseman. And everyone knows how much Rangers’ GM Glen Sather loves an aging defenseman.

But McCabe still has his solid shot. He can still be a pain to play against. And his salary comes off the cap at the end of this season, so he’s a true rental.

But what makes the move especially smart is that by solidifying the defensive corps, Sather gets to avoid upgrading his forwards.

The Rangers have been without a top-line center all season. With Marian Gaborik out indefinitely with a concussion, they have no natural goal-scorer. In fact, the team’s leading goal-scorer is Brian Boyle. On the one hand, you can look at that as Boyle having an incredible season. But the truth of the matter is that Boyle’s had the chance to put up a lot of goals because no one else has really stepped up.

The Rangers have had their eye on Brad Richards, but the price for him still seems to be high, plus Richards is dealing with his own concussion issues. Given how tight the playoff races are in both conferences, no one seems to expect a lot of high-impact players to be available at the trade deadline.

Sather saw no way to improve his offense, so he figured he would plug the hole in his defense. McCabe is a great sixth defenseman and could even turn out to be an answer to the Rangers’ powerplay struggles, although those struggles have a lot more to do with no one maintaining position in the slot that who’s manning the blueline.

On the one hand, you could fault Sather for not doing anything all season to improve his forward lines. You could question the sanity of having a team without a number one center. But coach John Tortorella has made the lineup work, so Sather really hasn’t been compelled to bring in serious help.

So, barring any major moves, Sather seems to have inexpensively patched his team, making it marginally better without giving up anything of value. He’s kept his young core together and can see what opportunities present themselves in the off-season.

Trading for McCabe wasn’t a very sexy move but it allowed the Rangers to improve their team in a creative way.

With so many teams so close in the standings, it seems this trade deadline is going to be about subtle improvements and not blockbuster deals.

A lot of GMs are trying to figure out how to improve their teams using lots of different, flawed pieces (see Sturm, Marco).

Sather got a jump on finding his flawed piece.