Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Little Trade That Could

At 12:58am early this morning, the trade that's been talked about since Saturday was finally completed with the Rangers and the Calgary Flames.  This trade was moving along like that famous little engine, "I think I can, I think I can," for 2-plus days before being officially consummated by GMs Glen Sather and Darryl Sutter.  So, here's how the trade reads now that all is said and done...

Rangers receive:
          C      Olli Jokinen
          RW  Brandon Prust

Flames receive:
          RW  Ales Kotalik
          LW  Christopher Higgins

First, here's a little background on what the Rangers gained in the deal...

Jokinen is a 31-year-old centerman who will play for Finland in the Olympics and is known for his size (6'3" 215 lbs.) and scoring touch.  He was originally drafted by the LA Kings with the 3rd overall pick in the 1997 draft, and has spent time with the Kings, Islanders, Panthers, Coyotes, and Flames.  He's had 4 seasons of 30 goals or more--all while playing with the Florida Panthers--and scored 29 times in 76 games last year with the Flames and Phoenix Coyotes.  Jokinen immediately becomes the team's 3rd highest scorer on the year with his 11 goals and 24 assists so far, and will reportedly jump right in as the top line center between Prospal and Gaborik tonight.  He will wear number 12.

Prust is a 25-year-old forward who is known for using his hands in different ways than Jokinen.  He's 2nd in the NHL this season with 18 fights.  He was originally picked in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft by the Flames.  He's a bit small at 5'11" 195 lbs. but hockeyfights.com has his record this year at 7-5-6, most of it while fighting against much larger opponents.  Prust won't be expected to chip in much offensively, as his 1 goal this season ties his career high (set last season).  However, this is his first time playing full time in the NHL and he was able to score 10 goals and 27 assists while racking up 248 PIMs during his last AHL season in 2007-08.  He will wear number 8.

Breaking down the exchange...

The Rangers gave up 2 players who they acquired over the summer, with Kotalik arriving via a 3-year/$9 million free agent signing and Higgins coming as part of the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal.  Higgins is earning $2.25 million this year and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.  Higgins clearly struggled to score in his short tenure here--as has been very well documented on this blog--and Kotalik has struggled to find the net pretty much since the Rangers ended their 7-game winning streak in October.  Though Higgins wasn't scoring, he often played well off the puck.  The same could not be said about Kotalik, who was worse away from the puck than he was with it.  I can't say that the Rangers really gave up much here.

In return, they got 2 players who will become free agents at the end of this season.  Prust earns $500,000 and Jokinen $5.25 million.  They also get someone who can be a legitimate #1 center and also provide some toughness, along with a player in Prust who puts it all on the line every night and will also stand up for his teammates.  Best case scenario, Jokinen returns to his previous Eastern Conference form and provides a much needed offensive spark to this team, and Prust brings energy, wins some fights, and chips in the odd point.  Worst case scenario, they both flop with the Blueshirts and walk away when their deals expire.

In summary... this deal is a win-win for the Rangers.  They pick up a pair of players who can potentially help in areas where help is needed, including team toughness.  More importantly, they now have $3 million coming off the books at the end of this season that was previously tied up in yet another under-performing free agent acquisition.  That space will be much-needed with Marc Staal, amongst others, due to hit free agency on July 1.  There's no scenario under which I can see this trade being bad for the Rangers.  Glen Sather has proven to be a trade wizard over the past 8 months, now if only he could not be so putrid in free agency.  Great job on this one, Glen!


  1. Too bad all his great trades are necessary because of his "House of Free Agent Horrors"....

  2. you're 100% correct, but I'm still impressed that he's able to unload SOME of the bad contracts and still get a decent return.