2009-03-06 / Sports

Rangers Make Big Bold Moves At Trade Deadline

By Nathaniel E. Baker

The playoff seeking New York Rangers have emerged from the NHL trade deadline an older, deeper, potentially more potent hockey club but without one of its fan favorites.

Hours before Wednesday afternoon's deadline, Rangers general manager Glen Sather made a pair of moves that—along with a highly-publicized acquisition from a day prior—should immediately improve the team, at least for the short term.

The Rangers first claimed Sean Avery off re-entry waivers Tuesday, signing the controversial left wing to his second tour of duty with the team.

Sather then acquired Russian right wing Nik Andropov from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second round draft pick and a conditional draft pick.

The Andropov trade had barely been announced when the Rangers traded for Derek Morris, a veteran defenseman with the Phoenix Coyotes. In exchange for Morris, the Rangers sent defenseman Dmitri Kalinin and left wings Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha to the Coyotes.

In Andropov, new Rangers coach John Tortorella gets a physical specimen (Andropov stands 6'6 and weighs 230) who can score badly needed goals. The 28-year old has notched 21 so far this season, which immediately makes him the Rangers' top scorer. Tortorella said he could use Andropov as a center as well.

Morris will quarterback the Rangers powerplay, filling another void on the team. But the Edmonton native is already in his 12th year in the league and will be a free agent at season's end.

At 31, he will likely command top dollar, which the Rangers salary cap can ill afford. This means Prucha, Dawes and Kalinin could end up being cast off for nothing if New York is unable to sign Morris to a new contract.

Dawes and Prucha were beloved by Rangers fans for their grit and determination, though neither has established himself as a bonafide top liner. Kalinin had moments of brilliance that were offset by flaky defensive play. At 28, the Russian defenseman is older than the 24-year old Dawes and 26- year old Prucha.

The Rangers also placed Aaron Voros and Erik Reitz on waivers to free up salary cap space for Avery. Reitz was promptly picked up by. The Rangers are responsible for half of Avery's remaining contract, which amounts to another three years with an annual cap hit of $3.875 million. The Dallas Stars, who signed Avery last summer before waiving him in December, are responsible for the other half.

Last season, Avery played in 57 games with the Rangers, registering 15 goals and 18 assists along with 154 penalty minutes. Beyond the statistics, however, Avery supplied a "spark" the Rangers appear to have lacked this season.

But the 28-year old also attracted attention for the wrong reasons. This culminated in disparaging remarks he made to reporters about some ex-girlfriends, which led to a suspension by the NHL and his dismissal from the Stars. Avery's comments also attracted the ire of his new coach, who at the time was a commentator for Canadian sports network TSN. Tortorella's onair comments about Avery could make for a difficult working relationship between the two men.

"He's embarrassed himself, he's embarrassed the organization, he's embarrassed the league and he's embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him," Tortorella said of Avery. "Send him home. He doesn't belong in the league."

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