For our second installment of Rink Deadline Matchmaker, I thought I'd tackle the big name - Dainius Zubrus. As we know, Zubrus believes that he'll find some team to pay him more than he's worth. There's one team out there with a history of doing just that, so why not make a match - Zubrus and Lawrence Nycholat to the Rangers for Petr Prucha.
What New York needs: a versatile forward who can center or play wing on a scoring line and depth on the blueline. The Rangers are in danger of missing the playoffs, and with Brendan Shanahan's availability uncertain for the near future, they have to do something soon.
What New York gets: one of the top point-producing forwards on the market who can center the #1 line (and allow Martin Straka to continue to play his more natural wing) or play the wing on the second line in Shanny's absence (or center the second line and allow Michael Nylander to center the first), as well as a depth defenseman with offensive skills that spent significant time in the Rangers system and whom they openly covet.
What Washington gets: Prucha, a 24-year-old right wing, had a surprisingly good 30-goal rookie season in 2005-06, but has seen his ice-time and responsibility drop precipitously in 2006-07 (to the point where guys like Blair Betts are getting more minutes). Prucha, who "owns a sweet pair of hands, and plenty of shiftiness to go along with it," and "plays a feisty game and never backs down from opponents" was rumored to be headed to Pittsburgh in exchange for Ryan Malone earlier in the season, but that never materialized. A restricted free agent at year's end, the Rangers may not want to risk having to pay for Prucha's 30-goal rookie year rather than his 14-goal sophomore follow-up. And, as noted before, at this point in the Caps' rebuild, the focus has to shift from acquiring picks to acquiring players.
Recent trade history: The Caps and Rangers made a trade back in January of 2004, but I can't recall the particulars thereof.
The Bottom Line: The Rangers need to do something or they're going to miss the playoffs. Much of the change must come from within, but some of it, especially in light of Shanahan's injury, probably needs to come from outside the organization. The team likely won't move blue-chippers Marc Staal or Al Montoya, but with the recent emergence of Marcel Hossa and the acquisition of Pascal Dupuis, Prucha may be expendable for a veteran forward who's both more versatile and cheaper than the big names on the market. And who knows - maybe the Rangers will give Zubrus the 5-year/$22.5 million contract he thinks he deserves.
As for the Caps, as I've said before, if they can't re-sign Zubrus, they absolutely must trade him. They cannot risk losing him for nothing, and a talented, young right-wing is a lot more than nothing.