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Rangers' trend of acquiring players from Western Conference continues

Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings is

Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings is checked by Derick Brassard of the Rangers in the first period during Game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 4, 2014 in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images / Harry How

Look west, young man.

Western Conference teams have won the Stanley Cup for the past four seasons, and in that time, the Rangers have stocked up on numerous players from that side of the league to surround Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and other homegrown talent.

This summer, the trend continued.

Training camp opens Sept. 17 and the Rangers' roster includes five players acquired from Western Conference teams in the offseason -- forwards Jarret Stoll, Emerson Etem and Viktor Stalberg, goaltender Antti Raanta and defenseman Raphael Diaz.

The Rangers have made deep playoff runs in three of the past four seasons, in part with the help of out-of-towners, but can that formula work again?

Consider this: Two of the team's current top six forwards, leading goal-scorer Rick Nash and center Derick Brassard, came from Columbus in separate deals in 2012 and 2013 before the Blue Jackets were moved to the Eastern Conference. Stalwart defenseman Kevin Klein arrived from Nashville in a January 2014 trade. Tanner Glass' previous stop was in Pittsburgh, but he had played two seasons for Vancouver for coach Alain Vigneault.

The significant acquisitions coming in from the East? Ryan McDonagh, in a lopsided trade and now the team's captain, and Martin St. Louis, who retired in July and arrived from Tampa Bay.

Even last season, to supplement a club that had reached the Stanley Cup Final the previous spring, the Rangers reached west to add Dan Boyle (free- agent defenseman from the San Jose Sharks), Lee Stempniak (Calgary), Keith Yandle (Arizona) and James Sheppard (San Jose). Boyle and Yandle remain on the roster but will be free agents in June. Stempniak was traded; Sheppard is a free agent.

With the contract extension of Stepan and the re-signing of youngsters J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast, general manager Jeff Gorton needed to fit any Western additions under the cap. All of the five key acquisitions have one-year contracts, with Stalberg's ($1.1 million) the highest salary.

To be sure, some Western newcomers in recent times didn't flourish in New York: Wojtek Wolski (Phoenix), Derek Boogaard (Minnesota), John Scott (Chicago), Ryan Clowe (San Jose), Alex Frolov (Los Angeles) and Taylor Pyatt (Phoenix). But the Rangers hope the current group will prove valuable in another hunt for the Cup.

Etem, a 23-year-old right wing, was acquired from Anaheim in a deal for Carl Hagelin, whom the Rangers could not afford to keep, at the NHL Draft on June 27. Etem can't match Hagelin's skating ability (few can), but still has impressive speed and adds a little more size.

Raanta, 26, was acquired from Chicago for Ryan Haggerty on June 27 immediately after backup goaltender Cam Talbot was shipped to Edmonton for draft picks. The Finnish netminder played two seasons with the Blackhawks, posting a 2.41 GAA, a .912 save percentage and a 20-9-5 record.

The acquisition of Stoll, 33, gives the Rangers depth in the middle and the option of moving second-year pro Kevin Hayes from third-line pivot to right wing on the second line. Hayes was fifth in rookie scoring with 45 points but won only 36.3 percent of his faceoffs. Stoll could kill penalties and play on the third or fourth line.

Stalberg, 29, who skates with Lundqvist in Sweden in the offseason, played for the Blackhawks and Predators. He's 6-3, is considered a very good skater and will compete for one of the third- or fourth-line spots with prospect Oscar Lindberg and Glass.

The mobile Diaz, 29, is a returnee and the frontrunner to replace seventh defenseman Matt Hunwick. He played 56 games for Calgary last season. His first stint with the Rangers came when he was acquired from Vancouver on March 5, 2014.

Will the latest Western infusion help the Rangers? Stay tuned.

New York Sports