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Rangers add Antropov, Morris at the deadline

by Brian Compton
For a while, it appeared as if the New York Rangers were going to pass through Wednesday's trade deadline without making a sound.

And then General Manager Glen Sather made two splashes.

Seeking to boost both their power play and the blue line, Sather made deals that landed forward Nik Antropov from the Toronto Maple Leafs and defenseman Derek Morris from the Phoenix Coyotes.

In order to land Antropov -- who has 21 goals and 25 assists this season -- the Rangers surrendered a second-round draft choice and another conditional pick. Morris, who was acquired shortly before the deadline, was obtained for forwards Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha, as well as defenseman Dmitri Kalinin.

"Antropov is a big winger or center iceman," Sather said in a conference call with reporters. "He's a gifted goal scorer and I think he'll help us in the goal-scoring department. He's a talented guy.

"Morris is a good, solid defenseman. He gives us a little more bite in the back end. He can play a little bit of everything -- a little offense, a little defense. He's an aggressive defenseman."

Leafs GM Brian Burke was pleased to land a second-round pick in exchange for Antropov, who is making just over $2 million this season and, like Morris, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"I'm never happy on my end of a trade," Burke told TSN. "I always wonder could I have gotten more. Could I have done more? If you look at a timeline here, I don't think we had a prayer of getting a second-round pick for this player until about a month ago when I confronted him publicly. His play improved after that. If you asked me a month ago if I would have gotten a second, I would have said no. His play improved over that time, so I think it's fair value."

Sather is confident that both Antropov and Morris will help the Rangers' anemic power play. Morris has just 5 goals and 12 assists this season, but he did go 11-37-48 for the Colorado Avalanche back in 2002-03. He hasn't tallied more than 28 points since. Six of Antropov's goals this season have come via the man advantage.

New York's power play is currently clicking at 14 percent, which ranks 29th in the 30-team League. It has also allowed 14 shorthanded goals, which is the most in the NHL.

"Antropov's certainly had a lot of power-play time," Sather said. "He's a goal scorer. He can skate and move the puck. Morris is a smart player. He has a history of playing on the power play. I don't think his production has been as good this year as it has in past years, but we'll work with him. He's a real good guy and a solid citizen."

Morris certainly brings plenty of experience to the table, although the veteran hasn't seen much of the playoffs. The 6-foot, 221-pound blueliner has appeared in 775 regular-season games since breaking into the NHL with Calgary in 1997, but only seven postseason contests. Those came with the Avs in 2003. Sather said he wasn't concerned about that when making the deal.

"I don't think so … I don't why it would," the GM said. "He's a good hockey player. There's really not a lot of difference between playing in the playoffs and the regular season. He was in Colorado, he played a lot. In Calgary, he played a lot. He's a good hockey player."

With the addition of Sean Avery, the Rangers needed to shuffle their roster in order to accommodate him. The deal with Phoenix, which sends Dawes and Prucha to the desert, allowed Sather to do just that.

"Since we've got Avery here, we did have a surplus of forwards," Sather said. "Adding Antropov takes another position. It sort of made sense to put those two forwards in the deal and give them an opportunity to play."

The wild-card in this deal could very well be Prucha, who scored 30 goals for the Blueshirts in 2005-06 and 22 the following season. But he's watched the majority of this season from the press box, with just four goals and five assists in 28 appearances.

"I like Prucha," Sather said. "He was certainly given an opportunity, but if you look at Antropov coming in here, we needed to get some size in front of the net for the power play. He's going to solve that for us. It was a situation where I wanted to give Petr an opportunity to play. He's going to get his chance to get a new contract."

"Antropov is a big winger or center iceman. He's a gifted goal scorer and I think he'll help us in the goal-scoring department. He's a talented guy." -- Rangers' GM Glen Sather
As will Antropov and Morris -- whether they sign with New York or elsewhere. Sather is hopeful he'll be able to keep the duo long-term.

"I think it's a little early to tell," Sather said. "I'm optimistic that we'll be able to re-sign these guys."

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