Avoid The Christmas Rush! Purge The Rangers NOW!

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9-1-1 seems as far away as Jupiter is from planet Earth. That stretch of quality hockey that exceeded expectations seems as long ago as the Pilgrims settling on a rock somewhere in Massachusetts. The charade is over my friends. The jig is up. The 2018-19 New York Rangers simply are not a playoff team.

They gave a valiant effort, mainly because of the Herculean Swede between the pipes, but it is time for Jeff Gorton and his staff to abandon any modicum of belief that the Rangers will still be playing meaningful hockey after the Spring equinox. It is time for the tough decisions to be made. It is time to jettison fan favorites. It is time to break up what is left of the 2015 President’s Trophy winning team.

First to go is, arguably the most polarizing player on the team and that is Kevin Hayes. Yes, it is true that a 6’5″ centerman with silky smooth hands is very hard to find. It is also true that Hayes’ trade value will never be higher than what it is now. It is not beyond the realm of belief that the bounty for Hayes could be two first-round picks and a top prospect, especially if the Rangers retain part of the remainder of his salary. Remember folks, this rebuilding process is just that, a process, and tough decisions have to be made. As my mother once said, “what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right.” The lady had a way with words, I’ll tell ya!

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The next Ranger to be traded should be Chris Kreider. The player who burst on the scene fresh off the Boston College campus in the 2012 playoffs will be sorely missed. However, like Hayes, Kreider’s trade value is at its apex and, as they say on Wall Street, “buy low and sell high.” Chris Kreider is that blue-chip stock whose perspective value will bring back great dividends for a Ranger franchise in desperate need of an infusion of elite talent.

Anthony J. Causi

Next to go is everyone’s favorite diminutive Norwegian, Mats Zuccarello. The perennial Extra Effort Award winner and third-longest tenured Ranger’s stock as of now is actually starting to plummet. A nice return could still be had for the man known as “Zucc,” however, it would be wise of Gorton to move a valuable asset like #36 before his trade value gets any lower.

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Veteran defensemen with expiring contracts, Fredrik Claesson and Adam McQuaid, should have their bags packed and be ready to go to the airport at a moment’s notice to join a new team. I don’t foresee much in the way of value in return for either of these depth-type defensemen. What is advantageous about moving them is that it would open up precious roster spots on the blue-line for youngsters Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek, the latter was the centerpiece in that blockbuster trade between the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning back in February of 2018.

With each successive loss, whether it be in regulation time or beyond, we are reminded that the Rangers are a team in transition and are in desperate need for a player, or players, who are, year after year, considered among the best at their position. Currently, the Rangers have not a single player that could be in any discussion about any of the myriads of individual awards that the NHL hands out once the Stanley Cup has been presented. This has got to change, my friends.

Hayes, Zuccarello, and Kreider. Three fan favorites. Three players who made their NHL debuts wearing the Rangers sweater. Three players whom fans have watched grow from neophytes into contributing players. Three players who were integral parts of that fantastic 2014-15 team that finished number one overall in the regular season and who made it all the way to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. Three players that must be traded and traded now if the Rangers are serious about building a true Stanley Cup contending team with staying power.

It is the belief of this writer that the aforementioned three stalwart Rangers would bring back, among other pieces, a first-round pick as part of any trade package. And, if that juggernaut on Florida’s Gulf Coast wins the Stanley Cup in June, that would give the Rangers an astounding five first-round picks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Gorton and his staff could use that excess of draft capital to attempt to trade up in the first round to land that elusive and desperately needed franchise player.

One could make the argument that 2019 is the most important year for this Rangers since 1994. The moves that Jeff Gorton makes, or doesn’t make, will be indicative as to the true direction of the organization. He cannot hold on to valuable trade pieces just because of nostalgia and a fan backlash. Tough decisions have to be made, but they are the right decisions.

“What’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right.”

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