Are the Rangers posturing?

Picture it: Anaheim, December of 2011.

The Philadelphia Flyers are in town, preparing to face the Ducks on Friday night. The talented Ducks team quickly sunk like a stone to the bottom of the NHL standings, managing only 7 wins in 24 games so far this season.

The situation is dire. Head coach Randy Carlyle was let go and replaced by former Washington Capitals head coach, Bruce Boudreau, last night. Over a quarter of the way into the season, the prospects of making the playoffs already seem grim for Anaheim and more moves seem imminent.

Atop the list of potential candidates to be shipped out of town is power forward and Philadelphia-area product, Bobby Ryan. The former Calder Trophy finalist would be welcomed with open arms by Flyer fans, despite the fact that he has only produced 12 points and a -6 rating this year after an impressive 34 goal and 71 point campaign last season.

Does it make sense for the Flyers to be pursuing Ryan? Maybe, but not really. Jaromir Jagr is injured, Brayden Schenn is showing signs of being prone to injury, and the Flyers have reportedly tried to trade James van Riemsdyk more than a few times over the years. However, the team currently leads the league in goals per game (3.48) and needs to focus on finding an upgrade on defense, especially with Chris Pronger out for an extended period of time. Ryan wouldn’t help the Flyers enough for the team to shift its focus from defense to offense.

Still, if there’s one thing we’ve come to learn from the the Flyers organization, it is to expect the unexpected. Additionally, when the Flyers appear to be out of the hunt, it’s often a sign that they’re actually aggressively pursuing a player. No team knows this better than divisional rivals, New York Rangers.

The Rangers, who were able to successfully drive up the price tag on Jody Shelley to $1.1 million, could benefit from the fire power that Ryan would bring but this is also the first year in a while where the team is not particularly hurting for offense. The team may not be dominating the league on the scoreboard but the dynamic duo of Brad Richards and a healthy Marian Gaborik helps to pad the team’s offensive numbers. They don’t need Ryan but it wouldn’t hurt to have him either, assuming a change of scenery rejuvenates him.

So, are the Rangers pursuing Ryan? Probably. What team wouldn’t be interested in pursuing him? It’s rare that such a talent comes on the market at this time of year and his cap hit is not unreasonably high, even after his contract extension kicks in next season. Depending on how much salary Anaheim is willing to take on (it’s probably not much, in reality) both Philadelphia and New York could theoretically land him — and if one is in the market, you can bet the other is in there too, even if it’s just to drive up the asking price.

Philadelphia is in a prime position — physically speaking, anyway — to discuss a deal for Ryan at the moment. It would behoove the Rangers to act quickly and spike the asking price for Ryan, just in case Philadelphia is interested in his services. The rumor that a deal is imminent only stokes the fire.

From Anaheim’s perspective, though, what benefit is there to dealing with a big-market team like Philadelphia or New York? Both teams would need to shed salary and aren’t particularly desperate for such a player. Anaheim is rumored to be cash strapped and, according to John Boruk, might be more interested in first round draft picks. A rebuilding team with cap space, prospects, and draft picks to spare who could use the star power Ryan brings along with him would probably make a better trade partner for Anaheim.