A couple of league sources I talked to agree that Erixon, the 20-year-old defenseman the Rangers acquired and signed Wednesday, could be ready to step into the already-young defense corps.
Which means that the trade to send 19-year-old prospect Roman Horak and both of the Rangers' second-round picks in the draft later this month to the Flames for Erixon and a fifth-rounder was a no-brainer for Glen Sather -- the Rangers felt Erixon would have gone in the top 10 had he reentered the draft, and that package is not much to give up for a top-10 talent.
Especially one that's already had three years playing in the Swedish Elite League alongside pro players and developed from a 6-foot-2, 180-pound 18-year-old into a 6-3, 205-pound 20-year-old who plays with a physical edge, can move the puck well and is developing his offensive game.
Rangers fans are wondering what this means for the other two top Rangers defense prospects, Michael Del Zotto and Dylan McIlrath. As of now, if Erixon can make the Rangers out of training camp, it may mean some disappointment for Del Zotto, who likely feels after a rough second year that he could make it right back to the NHL.
But if the Rangers want to see Del Zotto become a more patient defenseman who makes smarter plays, then Erixon's presence allows Del Zotto to develop slowly. He's not on the trading block now. Neither is McIlrath, who is developing into a strong skater to go with his punishing physical side.
And all those D-men still won't prevent the Rangers from selecting a defenseman prospect with the 15th pick on June 24; for Gordie Clark and his crew, it's best-player-available time, especially in a relatively weak draft once you get beyond the first eight.
Matt Gilroy may be the most impacted by Erixon's acquisition. Gilroy won't get the $2.1-million qualifying offer from the Rangers, but he's still liked in the organization. There will be less room for him to succeed and thrive, though, so Gilroy may be more tempted now to look elsewhere for a contract.
The Rangers will be looking for a veteran D-man on the free-agent market, though not a major one. Steve Eminger, who filled the 6/7 slot well for $1.125-million, is also still well-regarded and should be offered another one-year deal to fill the same role.