Less than 24 hours before Tuesday's NHL trade deadline, the New York Rangers made the first blockbuster deal of a usually hectic period, securing superstar Pavel Bure from the Florida Panthers on Monday evening. The Rangers, in a desperate fight for their playoff life, sent prospect Filip Novak, veteran defenseman Igor Ulanov, a first-round pick in 2002 and a fourth-round pick in 2003. The teams will also switch second-round picks in 2002 as part of the deal. All trades must be made by 3 p.m. Tuesday, the League's trading deadline.
The fact that the Rangers obtained one of the game's elite offensive players without gutting its active roster has to be considered a coup. The team, already without injured forwards Mark Messier and Radek Dvorak, needs all the help it can get as it chases Montreal for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"It should do an awful lot for the team in almost every position, he makes everyone better," said Glen Sather, the Rangers general manager. "It's makes the team more mobile, quicker and gives it better goal scoring. This guy is a world-class player. He's going to make our team go."
Go is just what the Rangers need to do as they are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth-straight season. The rangers have won just six of their last 17 games, falling one point behind Montreal in the battle for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
The Rangers have 12 games remaining to overtake Montreal, which played Carolina on Monday night.
Sather believes Bure will give his team the firepower to do just that. The numbers back that up.
Bure, who has two years remaining on his contract, has 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games this season for the Florida Panthers, out of the playoff race. Bure led the League in goal scoring each of the last two seasons, netting 58 and 59 goals, respectively.
"I think there's two guys in the League that can lift you out of your seats at a game," said Sather, who admitted to working on the deal, on and off, for close to a month. "[Dallas'] Mike Modano is one and Pavel is the other one. There's not many guys that skate like that."
A right wing, Bure gives the Rangers the luxury of a second scoring line for the final 12 games of the regular season. New York could use him on their top line with center Eric Lindros and winger Theo Fleury, or he could play on the second line with fellow Europeans Petr Nedved and Martin Rucinsky.
He will be in the lineup Tuesday night when the Rangers face off against the Canucks at Madison Square Garden. Ironically, Bure broke into the League with Vancouver in 1991, two years after being selected in the fourth round (113th overall) in the NHL Entry Draft.