Last night, Darren Dreger appeared on NBCSN to discuss possible changes for the New York Rangers, from replacing Alain Vigneault to making trades.
The video above is interesting, but it’s clear that the Rangers have more questions than answers. Allow a suggestion, then: the Rangers should make like the 2012-13 Sharks and essentially run a “mini-rebuild.”
As a reminder, the Sharks traded Ryane Clowe to the (gulp) Rangers for a bucket of picks and sent Douglas Murray to the Penguins for two second-rounders. Hot take: San Jose won those trades.
Now, the situations aren’t precisely the same (example: the Rangers employ Glen Sather, so they can’t swindle him), but New York should evoke the spirit of those trades. Rangers GM Jeff Gorton should peel off the Band-Aid for big rewards, much like Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Those decisions were braver then than they appear now.
And that is where the fun starts. Let’s ponder a few questions the Rangers must ask themselves.
Under certain circumstances, the Alain Vigneault question is more complicated than frustrated Rangers fans might believe.
Still, if you’re undergoing even an abbreviated rebuild, AV might not be the right fit. And, yes, even good coaches sometimes have limited shelf lives before players sour on them.
They already began a pivot, in a way
Also, while the moves were made to afford Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers already moved Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta out of town, with futures coming back. They got a boom-or-bust prospect in Anthony DeAngelo and the pick that became Lias Andersson in that trade.
In a way, this could just be a continuation. And, hey, there’s already some talk about the draft lottery.
- Rick Nash: His mammoth $7.8 million cap hit will expire after this season, making it a challenge to move, unless Gorton gets creative. The Rangers could retain some of his salary, or better yet, take on some cap hits in exchange for assets.
- Michael Grabner: While Nash is expensive, Grabner’s deal is as thrifty as he is swift. How many contenders wouldn’t want to add a speedy scorer with some gas in the tank (Grabner is 30) when you consider his $1.65M cap hit? The greater cost would come in the picks and/or prospects that would need to go the Rangers’ way.
- Would anyone want Marc Staal? Have the Rangers called Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, whose blind spot seems to be declining, rugged Rangers?
- Mats Zuccarello: The pint-sized wonder always seems to sneak up on you. Many might assume he’s had a quieter season … yet he has 10 points in 13 games. Sneaky.
Zuccarello has two years left, but at $4.5M, plenty of teams might view that at as plus. Really, it comes down to keeping him if you expect to contend again soon or shopping him if you see this as a “process.”
- Young forwards who need new deals: J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, and Kevin Hayes are three players in their mid-20s. They might be the sort of guys who are integral to your future, assuming this is a blip rather than a longer rebuild. Maybe you decide to keep two and trade one. Perhaps they’re all players you can sign to team-friendly deals.
Either way, the Rangers need to at least consider the futures of those three, among other young (and young-ish) players.
- Ryan McDonagh – I wouldn’t do it, but his bargain $4.7M does expire after 2018-19.
Do not move
Let’s just use this as an opportunity to mention that Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Brady Skjei shouldn’t be moved unless there’s an offer of just astounding quality. (In other words, unless Peter Chiarelli calls?)
There are also guys you wouldn’t be able to trade: Henrik Lundqvist and probably Shattenkirk. Also, probably Staal, but the Rangers should send a call to Tampa just to make sure.
Long story short, the status quo isn’t tenable for the Rangers. With that in mind, they should take a bold approach, ultimately aiming higher than merely trying to make the playoffs.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.