After being kneed in the head Mike Richter`s season was officially ended when Dr. Karen Johnston thought it best that Mike Richter take the season off. Dan Blackburn who had started 17 games in a row had started to show wear. In all the 19 year old played as well as expected for a 19 year old making the kind of mistakes that a 19-year-old makes in the NHL but with the Rangers playoff hopes on his shoulders Sather had no choice but to find a NHL regular to share the burden as the tandem of Blackburn-Holmqvist/Labarbera was not cutting it.
Sather packaged highly touted Tomas Kloucek a hard hitting defender from the Czech. Republic who had filled the Ranger faithful`s hearts with hope. The 6’3″ 200 plus pounder was a physical specimine who offered an edge on defense the Rangers have not had since Jeff Beukeboom was felled by a series of concussions in the late 1990`s. Kloucek suffered a serious knee injury the season before but worked his way back to shape.
In Hartford of the AHL Kloucek asserted himself physically and was allowed to make the mistakes of a young physical defender. Klouceky was one of the few prospects that Sather had that played with an edge.
Sather also include young Czech prospect Marek Zildicky, another defender had a superb season in Finland scoring 11 goals and adding 29 assists for 40 points in 2001-02. The 6-0 185 pounder came into his own several seasons ago in the WJC registering 5 assists in 7 games in 1996-97. The mature Zildicky opted for Finland this season and was not likely to be in North America until atleast next season. Veteran Rem Murray was also included in the deal, the career 4th line winger has been seen playing on a line with Eric Lindros among others.
Murray played hard but was made expendable by the development of Rico Fata and the emergence of Ted Donato as a solid checking forward. In return the Rangers received Richter`s partner in the Olympics in Mike Dunham. Dunham 2-9-2 this season in Nashville is an experienced no.1 NHL goaltender and can also help Dan Blackburn regain his confidence and guide the Rangers for many years to come.
While the loss of Murray opens a spot for Fata and or another prospect Sather went out and grabbed Josh Green and little used winger from Edmonton. The 6-3 200 pound green is a banging winger who was a 2nd round pick of the Los Angeles Kings back in 1996. Green has registered 2 assists in 20 plus games with the Oilers and has appeared in more than 150 NHL games.
What this means? It means the Rangers defense get`s softer at least at the AHL level and there are not many NHL ready prospects in the Rangers system that can step up and throw the body. Kloucek who fell out of Sather`s favor never seemed to find his way back into the NHL. Dave Karpa has been steady but is not the physical player that Kloucek is.
With Sylvain Lefebrve also down with an injury Joel Bouchard, a NHL veteran himself, was recalled and has been solid. Next in line would be Mike Mottau as the cupboard is a bit thin. Mottau has a chance if he can play with a little more of an edge. Mike Dunham will likely get his chance to carry the workload, atleast 60% of the final games of the season while Blackburn is allowed to rest and learn again.
Zidlicky was a long shot in New York even though he put up nice numbers in Finland. Rem Murray was a spare part that was asked to play the role of a key ingredient and he played his best. With Pavel Bure down the Rangers are likely not yet done dealing.
Jamie Lundmark and or Mike Mottau may be next, either called up or packaged.