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The Rangers faced something of a crossroads at the trade deadline this season.
Rick Nash was being dangled in front of them and the prospect of pulling the trigger was tempting because Nash's knack for scoring goals was exactly what these Rangers needed. The cost was prohibitive, but so was the prospect of watching the season slip away come the playoffs because the Rangers couldn't get a big goal.
The Rangers passed, of course, and rolled the dice on the plan they have put in place over the last few years. That plan centered on building from within and letting young players earn spots that had been going to pricey veterans for far too long.
If the Rangers flopped, their failure to make a big move would have been heavily criticized. They haven't flopped so far and the refusal to give into Columbus' demands was a big reason why on Thursday night.
A trade would have cost the Rangers one of their defensive stalwarts and there's simply no way the Rangers win Game Seven without the work done by Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto. All of them blocked shots, pushed rebounds clear of the net and held their own under the massive pressure the Senators applied in the third period.
A trade might have cost the Rangers the services of Carl Hagelin, the speedy rookie winger whose three-game suspension made it clear how much of a difference he makes when he's able to pressure teams as a forechecker. Hagelin creates turnovers and negates icings several times a game, skills that are invaluable for a team that finds itself protecting a lot of one-goal leads.
Throw Derek Stepan onto the pile of players who might have disappeared from the team in a Nash trade. He wasn't very good in the early part of the series, but Stepan was almost perfect in Games Six and Seven as he factored into four of the five goals the Rangers used to win the series.
And then there's Chris Kreider. There's almost no chance the Rangers could have swung the Nash deal without including Kreider, then playing at Boston College without any guarantee that he'd wind up in New York this season.
Kreider was as good a player as there was on the ice in Game Seven, which is fairly shocking since it was his fifth career game as an NHL player. He's also earned the trust of John Tortorella, as evidenced by the fact that he was on the ice often in the final minutes of a game that would've turned on one mistake.
The Rangers needed another top-six forward. That was the whole idea behind the Nash trade in the first place.
Kreider is so new that it feels crazy to hang any kind of label on him just yet. He looks like a top-six guy, though, and the Rangers look much better for having him in the lineup.
Whatever happens in the series with the Capitals or later in the playoffs, the Rangers have secured a very bright future for themselves with these men and others still bubbling up the system. That just proves that sometimes the best trades are the ones you never make.