If you play for, work for or root for the Rangers, there is only one way to look at the big trade they made Sunday. The team has as good a chance as anyone to win the Stanley Cup this year, and it has a better chance than it did three days ago. So let tomorrow take care of itself.
"Tomorrow," that is, in a figurative sense, as in the long-term future. That is a legitimate issue for a team that will have gone four consecutive years without a first-round draft choice (or four in five if the 2016 pick is in the lottery). But it is hard to fault general manager Glen Sather for giving up the latest one to the Coyotes on Sunday in a deal for Keith Yandle, a defenseman with skills that can lift a team's play and ambitions.
Because there is no dominant team this season, the National Hockey League's title is up for grabs. Consider the Predators, who were defeated by the Rangers, 4-1, at the Garden Monday night. They're an excellent club that has led the league in points for most of the season. But do they really make anyone feel "we can't beat these guys?"
The trade for Yandle, and a few related moves, put the Rangers in better position to do the grabbing. You don't get many opportunities like this, and you take them while you can.
"We're all getting older," Sather said Monday in a rare appearance before a group of reporters. "I look around this room and some of you guys didn't [used to] have gray hair and some of you had hair. You can't stop the clock. A hockey team is a business in motion every year."
Last year, the Rangers whetted their own appetite by reaching the Stanley Cup Final. They also raised expectations, especially among their fans, to rafter-banner height.
"My appetite has always been pretty anxious," Sather said. "It's not easy. It takes a lot of things that have to work right to get there. Yeah, it was nice to get there. I hope we can do that again. But there's a lot of teams that are going to think the same things that we're thinking."
A team that sees the clock ticking does a little extra. Henrik Lundqvist turned 33 Monday. The goalie is expected to be fine for the playoff run, but how many playoff runs does he have in him? Reality like that convinces a team to surrender a prospect as promising as Anthony Duclair.
"Giving up the assets we did to make the deal work? That was just part of the deal," said Sather, 71, who still had enough on his fastball to get the Coyotes to pay half of Yandle's salary. That allowed the cap-challenged Rangers to keep Mats Zuccarello after threatening to trade him. ("Whether or not that would have ever happened is another story," Sather said sheepishly.)
Anyway, Zuccarello made an expert pass to Chris Kreider for the second goal Monday night. And Duclair isn't Wayne Gretzky. And it is not as if Yandle has an AARP card. The guy is 28 and could be here for a long while.
True, this deal could implode. In a tightly contested season, the Rangers could get knocked out in the first round. Or they could grow old quickly in a few years. But it was a risk worth taking.
Like any trade, this one was a statement that the team isn't quite good enough. At the same time, though, it was a signal that it is good enough to dream of a parade.
Alain Vigneault called it "a strong vote of confidence to our players."
"I think that's what we all want . . . You want to have the opportunity to win the big prize," the coach said.
The way they see it, the future is June.