Offseason Dreaming

When Dany Heatley rumo(u)rs were running more rampant than Kirstie Alley’s caloric intake, one of his suitors was rumoured to be the New York Rangers. Amongst the names that was allegedly involved a prospective Heatley package was Ryan McDonagh — a prospect who was acquired earlier in the offseason from the Canadiens along with Christopher Higgins, Doug Janik and Pavel Valentenko for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto.

If Ottawa’s interest in McDonagh is genuine, there may not be a better time to go out and acquire the Rangers’ defenceman via trade. Allow me to explain. In Larry Brooks’ most recent Sunday column, he dropped this little nugget of information:

Rangers, who conducted organizational meetings last week, are believed keenly interested in signing Ryan McDonagh, whose rights they acquired from Montreal in the Scott Gomez deal, but the Wisconsin defenseman has a fair amount of leverage as he awaits an offer.

McDonagh, who turns 21 next month, would play his senior year for the Badgers if he does not turn pro. If he remains unsigned through next year, McDonagh would become an unrestricted free agent as of Aug. 15, 2011.

Chances are, then, if the 6-foot-1, 215-pound McDonagh, who is regarded as a proficient, stay-at-home type physically ready for the NHL, does not sign this summer, he will not sign at all with the Blueshirts.

McDonagh has all of the leverage. Inevitably, he could wind up being the next Blake Wheeler. As a promising young player, Wheeler spurned the Phoenix Coyotes entry level contract offer(s) and elected for free agency because he wanted the ability to choose where he’d play and live for the foreseeable future. Like Wheeler, if McDonagh doesn’t like the team’s current situation, their contract offer, roster availability, or the coaching staff / management, he doesn’t have to sign a contract. And by August 15th, 2011, he can hand pick a situation which team is ideal for him.

Like Blake Wheeler’s agent, Matt Keator, said when his client elected for free agency, “Now he might have 29 other options. That’s a powerful thing.”

One devoted Rangers website called The Rangers Tribune made a great point of alluding to Matt Gilroy as an example of why McDonagh may be so hesitant to forego his final year of collegiate ability.

Take Matt Gilroy, for example, who signed with the Rangers out of college last April. A former Hobey Baker Award winner, Gilroy entered the National Hockey League playing under a coach that apparently did not have much patients to allow him to develop. He was docked ice time, sent down to the minors, and then was sentenced to watch the final week of the regular season from the press box. Again, a Hobey Baker Award winner, coming out of college, was shown very little respect by head coach John Tortorella, and barely was given a chance.

After seeing that, can you blame McDonagh for wanting to stay in college for his final year where he is one of their “go to” players instead of being belittled by Tortorella and possibly not even dressing on occasion? I cannot, and it is a shame that out coach can possibly scare off future talent. Gilroy has potential, and could have developed nicely this past season, but Torts finds it necessary to play individuals such as Wade Redden over him. If I am McDonagh, I do not jump to the pros and lock into a contract with the risk of having to contend with that nonsense.

Now I am not saying this is why McDonagh is holding out, but without a doubt, it is a possible explanation. Once the upcoming NCAA season concludes, the 6-foot-1 blue-liner has no choice but to enter the National Hockey League, and there is plenty of time between the end of his season and early August for him to strike a deal with the Blueshirts before becoming an unrestricted free agent and New York losses his rights. Until then, he is Rangers property and has shown no indication whatsoever of not wanting to play on Broadway as Brooks claims in his article.

Obviously the question moving forward will be: Can the Rangers get McDonagh to turn pro? If they can’t and McDonagh returns to Wisconsin, it might be a fortuitous opportunity for a team like the Senators to trade for his rights and continue to stockpile bluechip talent on the back end. With names like Wiercioch, Cowen, Karlsson and Gryba under wraps, maybe a deal involving Anton Volchenkov’s negotiation rights or some package involving Brian Lee might entice the Rangers to act if they truly fear the risk of losing him for nothing.

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