Rangers pick Skjei but can't swing deal

Then-Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash (61) watches a Then-Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash (61) watches a face off during the third period of a game against the Rangers. (Feb. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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PITTSBURGH -- The Rangers came to the NHL draft armed with their first-round pick, a few expendable assets and a desire to make a splash by trading for one of the big names who could be available on the trade market.

They ended the night still in possession of that No. 28 pick, using it to select U.S. national team developmental program defenseman Brady Skjei, 18, who is headed to the University of Minnesota.

The trade part didn't exactly go as planned. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash remained in Columbus, with general manager Scott Howson's asking price staying far too high for the Rangers' liking.

Ducks wing Bobby Ryan, perhaps coveted by the Rangers even more than Nash because of his playing style and smaller salary, remained in Anaheim, even though a report had Ryan asking for a trade to the Flyers. That hadn't happened as of late Friday night, though it certainly would sting the Rangers to see another talented forward go to Philly.

The only big trade consummated Friday night had the host Penguins sending center Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes for the No. 8 pick, forward Brandon Sutter and prospect Brian Dumoulin. Staal had rejected a 10-year contract extension by the Penguins on Thursday, paving the way for a deal to join his older brother Eric in Carolina.

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The other Staal brother in the NHL, the Rangers' Marc, would have loved to join forces with Jordan as well, and Rangers GM Glen Sather made inquiries with Penguins GM Ray Shero. But a source indicated that the Penguins would not consider trading Jordan Staal within the division, so the conversation didn't go far.

Adding to the family aspect was Jordan Staal's wedding Friday night, which was attended by several Penguins players.

There still is plenty of time for a deal to shake out, even for Nash, who still wants to leave Columbus, holds a no-trade clause and has a very short list of teams with which he would approve a deal. The Rangers are on that list.

Once July 1 hits and Devils captain Zach Parise finds a new home or signs with the Devils, the Nash sweepstakes could begin anew with such a thin free-agent market.

Friday night, though, things were quiet at the Rangers' draft table. Before the Staal trade, the Stars dealt center Mike Ribeiro to the Caps for forward Cody Eakin and a second-round pick, the only other deal involving an offensively gifted player.

So the Rangers opted for Skjei, a skilled puck-mover who "fit what's been successful for us on 'D' -- an elite skater and an elite athlete," said Rangers scouting director Gordie Clark.

For Skjei, like Ryan McDonagh a Minnesota native, the Rangers were where he wanted to be. "If I could have picked a team, it'd be this team," he said.

When Sather and the Rangers return to the draft table Saturday morning, they again will try to see whether an elite scorer such as Nash or Ryan wants to be a Ranger as well.

Devils pick Matteau. The New Jersey Devils selected center Stefan Matteau, the son of former Ranger Stephane Matteau, with the No. 29 pick.

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