Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has said over and over that while his club is rebuilding and they intend to play a bunch of young players this season, they cannot field an entire roster filled with them.
So, as training camp is set to open Friday, Gorton made a move to add a veteran defenseman by trading depth-defenseman Steven Kampfer plus a fourth-round pick in next summer’s NHL draft and a conditional seventh-round pick to the Boston Bruins in exchange for 31-year-old defenseman Adam McQuaid. McQuaid had been scheduled to depart for China on Tuesday with the Bruins, who are set to play a pair of preseason games there against the Calgary Flames.
McQuaid, a 6-4, 212-pounder, was a reliable stay-at-home defenseman who had plenty of toughness with the Bruins, but he had trouble staying healthy. McQuaid played in more than 70 games in just two of his nine NHL seasons. Last season, a broken leg limited McQuaid to 38 games, in which he scored one goal and three assists. For his career, he has played in 462 career games, all with Boston, and scored 13 goals with 53 assists for 66 points, and 652 penalty minutes. He was a member of the 2010-11 Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup in his second season, playing in 67 games and posting career highs in goals (3), assists (12), points (15) and plus/minus (+30).
A righthanded shot, McQuaid is in the final year of a four-year, $11 million contract, and if he can stay healthy and play well this season, could be a tradable asset at the deadline in February. On a rebuilding Rangers team, he adds a couple of elements — defense-first thinking and toughness — that were in short supply at the end of last season. He also adds a veteran presence who can mentor some of the organization’s young players.
At the same time, adding McQuaid makes it harder for some of the Rangers’ prized prospects, like first-year pros Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren, to make the opening night roster. Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei, Marc Staal seem locks to be on the club, and McQuaid joins them in that category. The organization likes what it saw from Neal Pionk at the end of last season and expects rugged Brendan Smith to rebound from a disappointing showing last year. And free-agent signing Frederik Claesson more than likely figures to be on the roster as well.
Throw in players such as Tony DeAngelo and Long Island’s own Rob O’Gara, who were on the roster at the end of last season, and it’s hard to see where Hajek and/or Lindgren might squeeze onto the opening night roster. Of course, adding a veteran such as McQuaid also means the Rangers won’t have to force one of their young studs onto the roster if management deems them not ready.
Kampfer, whose season ended prematurely last season because of a broken foot, played in 32 games over the past two seasons for the Rangers, scoring one goal and two assists.