Envisioning a Blockbuster-less Offseason for the Rangers
Since the end of the Rangers’ short-lived post season stint, all speculation has pointed to a blockbuster trade to reshape the team for the 2017 season.
Rumors have involved nearly every name on the roster. The common theme has been to explore all trade avenues and “shake-up” the group which couldn’t get it done last season. It came as a shock that the Rangers did not move a high-priced asset at the draft, especially after word spread that Gorton may be in hot pursuit of Steven Stamkos.
Per @JSportsnet and @FriedgeHNIC on NHL Network, Rangers are in on Stamkos.
— Rick Carpiniello (@RickCarpiniello) June 25, 2016
Now, just a few days short of the first day of free agency, the“out” chatter seems to outweigh the “in” side in regards to the Rangers chances of landing Stamkos.
LeBrun/Stamkos: “I got the sense the Rangers were not going to be a player at this point.” #NYR #TBLightning
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) June 28, 2016
If this is the case, would it be wise for the team to unload names such as Nash and Stepan with no feasible offensive replacement available? Instead, Gorton’s focus would likely turn to retooling the defensive core which was the true weak point last season.
In 2016, the Rangers tallied 233 goals, good for seventh in the league. Solid offensive seasons by Zuccarello, Stepan and Brassard led this effort, with each posting more than 50 points. Furthermore, the team saw Miller have a career year on the stat sheet. Conversely, 215 goals allowed, coupled with a 78% penalty kill, detracted from the front line efforts. Breaking down the 46-27-9 record, the team lost 13 one-goal games, not including shootouts. Moreover, many fans can attest to the number of third period leads the team was unable to hold.
As such, the defense is the predominant focus area of needed improvement. Initially, it appeared we would see Nash and Stepan move on for defensive attributes which included names such as Kevin Shattenkirk. However, now that those rumors have somewhat subdued, is it in the best interest of the team to pursue selling-off these names?
If Gorton decides to move on from “Plan A”, the next move needs to be ridding as much of the $11.2M tied up by Staal and Girardi in order to get the team to the next level. The problem with trading a player of Nash’s caliber is that the immediate return will more than likely not meet the current direction of the Rangers. No matter how you look at it, with Lundqvist on this team the front office will (and should) make the utmost effort towards a run at the cup, as seen in the endless trades in recent history. Previously, the end-goal of the trades discussed this summer were to sign Stamkos in free agency. But, should the opportunity to sign Stamkos close, a trade involving our offensive assets should as well.
Instead, a more fitting move would be addition by subtraction. By minimizing the cap hits of Staal or Girardi, the Rangers can then target a number of free agent upgrades. Although none would directly fill the void of a Yandle-less group, some names to consider are Jason Demers and Patrick Wiercioch, and to a lesser extent Kris Russel and Justin Schultz. Assuming Staal and Girardi will not both be moved, one of the above names along with the added free cash (to sign the RFA’s and fill out the bottom-six forwards) would be a positive for the Rangers.
The shortage of trades across the league this summer has been filled with endless rumors and theories. So, I fully expect the tides to shift by the time this is published. There are plenty of scenarios which may play out between now and October, but if that scenario doesn’t include a blockbuster trade it does not necessarily write-off the Rangers in 2017.
For additional coverage, follow me on Twitter @FullTiltNYRmatt