BOSTON - The Rangers would not be where they are without the deadline- day deal that sent Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets for three players, all of whom are making an impact this postseason.
The Rangers also would not be able to do much of anything this coming offseason without that deal. In fact, the salary-cap flexibility created when Gaborik, a two-time 40-goal scorer and seeming untouchable, was dealt for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore was the most important part of the trade.
It was a deal for the future of the Rangers, except that all three young players have made something out of the present.
"I've always played with passion and energy, and I kind of lost that in my years in Columbus," said Brassard, who has made the biggest impact with 10 points in eight playoff games. "I've found that again. It's a great atmosphere for me."
He's quickly become John Tortorella's No. 1 center, and the timing could not have been better with Brad Richards' sharp decline this season. Dorsett, just back from a broken collarbone, offers the third-line grit and spunk that's been missing since Brandon Prust departed for the Canadiens' plum offer last summer.
And Moore, 22, might be the most intriguing part of the blockbuster trade.
The defenseman came to the Rangers as a first-round pick who never quite panned out with Columbus. The Blue Jackets expected more offense with Moore's skating skills.
Instead, he seems more and more like the sort of defenseman that Ryan McDonagh has grown into. That's Tortorella's hope, anyway. With Marc Staal's injury, Moore has given Tortorella immense confidence in more than only three of his defensemen in crucial moments.
"I don't think he's afraid, and I think that's really important for a young defenseman," Tortorella said of Moore. "I just love his skating. When there are some struggles with his positioning, which he's going to take a while to learn, he's able to recover.
"His whole mental approach is not to test the waters, it's trying to make a difference. He's a guy, I think a couple years down the road, I hope we're going to say that was a hell of a deal because we got him in it, especially at that position."
Those are the positives for now, with Game 2 of the Rangers' Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins looming today. A Rangers team that didn't seem poised to do much at all on April 3 now -- with the addition of these three -- has a chance to equal last season's run to the Eastern Conference finals or even better it.
The benefits of shedding Gaborik's $7.5-million cap hit for next season won't be realized until the summer, but that was the motivation for two weeks of tinkering with the deal and convincing Gaborik to waive his no-trade clause to make a fresh start in Columbus.
"It was equally important to me," Glen Sather said of the contractual part. "It gives us some options."
First and foremost, it doesn't force Sather's hand should the must-have deals with restricted free agents McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan cost a premium. McDonagh and Hagelin have arbitration rights. Stepan does not, so the Rangers could sign him to a stopgap one-year deal and put off the pain of a high arbitration award until the summer of 2014.
There's also the possible buyout decision on Richards, which might have been a no-brainer if Gaborik still were a Ranger and the team needed a serious overhaul after a disappointing season.
Tortorella doesn't need to hope: This already has turned out to be a heck of a deal, one that not only saved the Rangers this coming offseason but has prolonged the current one.