Wednesday night against the Penguins marked the first time the Rangers have been able to score two goals in the first period, and they barely accomplished it as Ryan McDonagh put home the second goal with only 47 seconds left. Wednesday night’s victory also marked the first time the Blueshirts scored five goals in a game since game 7 of last years first round victory over the Washington Capitals. Creating offense already looked like a problem for the Rangers at the beginning of the season, and after the club lost its biggest source of offense when star forward Rick Nash was concussed on October 8th when the San Jose Sharks routed the Rangers 9-2. Nash hasn’t skated since, and the Rangers have gone 7-7 since losing the former Blue Jackets captain. The Rangers still haven’t placed Nash on the long-term injured reserve even though he’s missed the last 14 games, and they still have given no update as to his status. Recently, rumors have surfaced regarding talks between Rangers GM Glen Sather and the Oiler’s Craig McTavish involving former 1st overall pick Nail Yakupov and the Rangers offensively gifted defenseman Michael Del Zotto. This deal seems to make sense for both clubs as the Rangers have an abundance of young defensemen, while the Oilers have a plethora of young talent up front.
Given the severity of Nash’s injury, and the considerable amount of time he’s missed already, it’s fairly safe to assume he won’t be coming back in the near future. Because of this, it would be wise for the Rangers to make a deal to boost their offensive productivity. Former Rangers head coach John Tortarella really did a number on Del Zotto’s offensive ability, but the oilers might be just the team to spark the former Oshawa General’s point production. Now the Rangers have Alain Vigneault behind their bench, and the former Canucks coach has had plenty of experience developing young talents like Yakupov. During his tenure with Vancouver, Vigneault saw young players such as Alex Edler, Ryan Kesler, and Jannik Hansen develop into the tier-one players that helped the Canucks win back to back Presidents trophies from 2010-2012, as well as a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2011. Nail Yakupov wouldn’t have succeeded under Vigneault’s predecessor, but the first-year Ranger’s coach allows his players to take more offensive liabilities, which is exactly the kind of system the second year Russian fits in, and will allow him to thrive.
This deal is still a gamble for the Rangers, as Yakupov has yet to prove himself to be the elite goalscorer he has the potential to become. Also, while players like Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal can chip in on the offense, Del Zotto is the Rangers only truly offensive defenseman, meaning more minutes will have to be eaten up by the Blueshirts back-end, and more offensive responsibilities will fall to more defensively-minded defensemen like Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman. The Rangers already have a talented forward lineup featuring Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and more. Nail Yakupov might just be the offensive spark that will ignite this offense, which is more than capable of scoring 3-5 goals a night.