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The Rangers Were After Brent Burns: What It Could Mean

Brent Burns

Brent Burns

In today’s NY Post Larry Brooks mentions that the Rangers were keen on acquiring defenseman Brent Burns before he was traded to the San Jose Sharks at the draft last month.

In the end GM Glen Sather was unwilling to part with the considerable assets it would have taken to pry Burns from Minnesota, but it’s curious that the Blueshirts were working to add another offensive-minded defenseman given the youngsters already within the organization.

New York traded for Tim Erixon at the beginning of June, a Swede with plenty of offensive ability, and also has another young puck-mover in Michael Del Zotto.  Though both Erixon and Del Zotto are unproven and Burns has established himself as one of the NHL’s elite offensive talents on the blue line, it had seemed as though the Rangers were content with their emerging defensive core.

The Rangers’ interest in Burns could mean a few things:

The team isn’t confident in Del Zotto.  It’s been well documented that the Rangers are extremely high on Erixon, but interest in Burns could signify that New York isn’t sold on DZ’s future in the NHL.  It’s way too early to give up on Del Zotto or even be disappointed with his development, but the organization’s faith in the 21-year-old seems to have been shaken by his roller coaster 2010-2011 season.  It’s hard to imagine that Erixon would have been dealt to Minnesota after just arriving in New York, but Del Zotto would probably have been one of the pieces of a package for Burns.  The Blueshirts don’t appear likely to make a significant trade this offseason so Del Zotto should get another shot at training camp to prove himself once again, but he needs to turn things around because the team has plenty of other options should he continue to struggle. 

The Blueshirts are determined to win now.  Burns would have been a huge addition for the Rangers’ defense, but the cost of acquiring him would have been massive.   The package Minnesota received from San Jose (Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick) was significant and we can assume the Wild would have wanted a similar package from the Rangers.  Del Zotto would probably have been included in the deal along with possibly the Rangers’ first-round pick or a top forward prospect and a draft pick next year.  Sather was unwilling to forfeit so much for Burns, but if Brooks’ report is accurate and Sather was at least considering a move for Burns, he had to realize how steep the price would be.  This was before the Rangers signed Brad Richards and though his eventual commitment to New York may have been anticipated, Sather would have been making this move and mortgaging part of the future independent from the Richards signing.  That means that Sather and company are probably of the belief that it’s time to start attempting to upgrade positions rather than continuing to accumulate assets because they believe this team has a solid enough foundation to take the next step.  While the team will continue to commit to drafting and developing homegrown talent, it has reached the point where some of these youngsters could be flipped for other important pieces. 

Tinkering with the defense is an ongoing process.  Marc Staal isn’t going anywhere, but it’s hard to tell how firmly entrenched the rest of the Rangers’ young defenders are in the lineup.  Though there have been no indications from the team itself, there has been speculation this offseason that Dan Girardi could be expendable because his value probably won’t ever be higher and his relentless shot blocking puts him at risk for injury.  Ryan McDonagh appears to be a blue chip piece and Mike Sauer was very impressive during his rookie season, but with top prospects Erixon, Del Zotto and Dylan McIlrath on the way, there eventually will be tough personnel evaluations to be made.  It’s easy to fall in love with the wealth of riches in terms of young defenders, but packaging one or more of these defensemen to pick up a star is certainly a possibility down the road.

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Posted by Kevin Baumer | July 17, 2011 at 08:40 pm

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