Mr. Smith's Neighborhood

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Rangers’ Trade Creates Questions July 19, 2007

Cullen Trade Leaves Some Fans Bewildered

On Tuesday, July 17, the New York Rangers announced that they had traded center Matt Cullen to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, forward Joe Barnes and a 2008 third-round draft pick. The trade has received a mixed reception from Ranger fans. The move is largely regarded as an attempt by the Rangers to create more cap space, presumably to sign restricted free agents Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa. There has also been speculation that the Rangers are pursuing Toronto free agent Michael Peca.

Cullen, who will turn 31 this season, was an important part of Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup. Although Cullen did not live up to expectations in his first season as a Ranger, his hustle, speed and tenacity were respected by many fans. His effort in the drive to make the playoffs, and his performance in the playoffs, seemed to hold promise for some fans.

On the other hand, it is possible that management felt they were overpaying Cullen who became the third-line center with the acquisition of free agents Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. Cullen disappointed many fans with his frequent failure to hit the net with shots and his inability to finish (score on good opportunities).

The one concern is that the Rangers, who seemed well set at center with Gomez, Drury, Cullen and Blair Betts, now have a question mark for the third or fourth line. Betts is a possible candidate for the third line, but that would mean that the Rangers must either acquire a new center or bring up a rookie from its minor league team in Hartford.

The simple fact is that the Rangers have essentially traded Gomez and Drury for Michael Nylander (signed by Washington) and Cullen, undoubtedly a major improvement for the Rangers. Hutchinson adds experience to the Rangers defense and will be a strong point man on the power play unit. Despite rumors of a Cullen trade, the move still caught many fans by surprise, especially those like me who had already penciled in the training camp roster.

As Rosalita and I head off for a week of fishing in Northern Ontario to celebrate our first anniversary (it was her first idea), we bid farewell to Matt Cullen and wish him well. We were among his fans. If trading Cullen means freeing up cap money to sign Avery to a longer contract, it’s a good move. I guess we will find out soon enough what Glen Sather was thinking … assuming the best that he, MSG, Tom Renney and Cablevision have a plan and this was not a psychotic move.

PS … don’t tell Rosalita but I bought her a special life jacket that is loaded with lead weights to assure a better fishing experience. Au revoir.


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