Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates his third-period...

Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates his third-period goal against the Rangers. (Feb. 19, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

With Devils captain Zach Parise adamantly telling the media several times on break-up day Wednesday that he would not sign a free-agent deal with the Rangers, it appears more than likely that the Blueshirts will try to trade the 28th pick in next weekend's entry draft.

And why not?

The Rangers aren't discussing their plans, but if the most tantalizing free-agent forward isn't coming to Broadway, the Rangers must look elsewhere to fill the need for a scorer. After making a hard run at Columbus' Rick Nash at the trade deadline in late February, re-kindled talks could result in the Rangers trading their No. 1 pick (28th overall) to the Blue Jackets as part of a package for the power forward.

The Rangers currently have picks in the first four rounds of the draft Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh: The 28th, 59th, 89th and 119th -- the fewest since 1968, when they had one. The front office traded the three picks in the lower rounds. By comparison, the Blueshirts drafted six players in each of the last two years and seven in 2009.

For the Rangers, No. 28 would be the lowest first pick in 10 years; Lee Falardeau was chosen at 33 in the second round in 2002. The lowest first-rounder prior to that was goaltender Dan Cloutier at 26 in 1994.

The Rangers might try to restock with some late-rounders because the trades haven't really worked out: The fifth-round pick was sent to Chicago for 6-8 ward John Scott on Feb. 27. The lumbering Scott played five games, all in March.

The sixth-round pick went to Nashville during the last draft; the Rangers received a sixth-rounder back and selected defenseman Peter Ceresnak, who played for the OHL's Peterborough Petes.

The seventh-rounder went to the Maple Leafs for center John Mitchell on Feb. 29, 2011. Mitchell was very good on faceoffs, but was 5-11-16 in 63 games last season and is an unrestricted free agent, with only a slim chance of being re-signed.

Of course, the Rangers could try to move up or back by dangling the 28th selection as well, or keep it, given the recent emphasis on re-building, especially if some top prospects are shipped off in a trade.

Should the Rangers keep their 28th pick, scouts say the Rangers could opt for familiar genes.

They landed defenseman Tim Erixon (a former first-rounder and the son of Jan Erixon) in a trade with Calgary. They drafted both Christian Thomas (son of former Islander Steve Thomas at No. 40 in 2010) and Ryan Bourque (son of the Bruins star Ray Bourque at No. 80 in 2009).


Among the possibilities:


SAMUELSSON6-2, 195. C/RW. With four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff games for the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, the 18-year-old son of Ulf Samuelsson raised his profile and may be gone by 28. His size and grit would fit the Rangers emerging identity.


Stefan Matteau 6-1, 207. C/LW. Was 6-4-10 in 18 games with 93 penalty minutes for the U.S. National Development Team juniors. The 18-year-old son of Rangers playoff hero Stephane Matteau is described as a bull in front of the crease and along the boards, but with average skating ability.


Kerdiles 6-2, 201. LW. The front office loves U.S.-born players and Kerdiles scored 42 points in 50 games with the National Team in the USHL. Well-rounded, strong skater, good skills.


Dalton Thrower 6-foot, 195. D. An intense worker who may be a late-bloomer, Thrower scored 18 goals and 54 points in 66 games with WHL's Saskatoon Blades after being considered a hard-nosed, stay-at-homer.

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