Hypothesizing on moves the Rangers will make this season

After a superb stretch of 9-1-1 in November, the Rangers have come back down to earth heading into their bye week. The Blueshirts are 1-3-1 in their last five games compiling just two points out of a possible 10. Most fans should have expected stretches like this to occur, but it is still tough to swallow.

In times like these we go back to the “Lose For Hughes” campaign and a call for the continuation of a fire sale that started back in February of last season. Here is a breakdown of what I think the Rangers will do over the course of the next 7 months between the deadline, draft, and free agency.

Let’s start with the obvious, trades.

Mats Zuccarello: Fan favorite Mats Zuccarello has said that he is pretty much waiting to be traded. While I am not totally happy with his comments, I understand why he may be upset. Zucc is on what I believe his farewell tour (when returning from injury) here on Broadway.

I am certain that Zucc will be moved at or even way before the February deadline. The question is what will he bring back? Michael Grabner, who was moved across the pond to the Devils last year at the deadline, brought back a 2nd round pick, and upper-mid-level prospect Yegor Rykov. Grabner, who had arguably the best year of his career, still didn’t eclipse a total of 50 points; Zucc has done that four of the last five years (the one year he didn’t he notched 49). I, as many would, believe the Norwegian is a much better player than Grabner, and would be an integral piece in the middle six for a team contending for Lord Stanley’s cup.

I believe that Zucc’s yield would be similar to Grabner’s; a 2nd round pick, and an upper-mid-level prospect. With that being said, I can easily see a team like Nashville pony up a 1st round pick to ensure they land the 5 foot 7 inch pest.

Kevin Hayes: The situation with Hayes has been a difficult one, and I cannot imagine how hard it is/will be for Gorton and crew to make a decision on what they are going to do with the 6 foot 5 BC product. In a recent article, I pitched my case for why the Rangers should hold onto Hayes…….but now I am here to tell you that I think he should be moved.

This is something that fans, NYR brass, and I will jockey with from now until the time a decision is made on Hayes. At the moment, I believe Hayes should be moved because the Rangers have shown in the last few weeks what they really are, and that they will not be competitive until at least 2020. Sorry to those fans that thought this team had a chance to compete for the Cup.

Hayes is without a doubt a top 6 player on any team. His size, play making ability, and hockey IQ, will make him one of the most sought after rentals for a Cup contender. I, like many others, believe that Winnipeg is a perfect spot for the flexible forward. On a team like the Jets, Hayes doesn’t have to be “The Guy” because of the star power that would be around him. So what would a return look like for Hayes…?

Last year at the deadline, Rick Nash brought back a 1st round pick, and mid-level prospect Ryan Lindgren. Hayes who is way younger now than Nash was, will without a doubt bring that back, if not more. In my opinion, Hayes’s return will be a 1st round pick, plus an upper level prospect such as Kristian Vesalainen.

Chris Kreider: Kreider is a name that has been thrown around all over the place so far this season. He is having BY FAR the best year of his career as he is on pace for around 65 points; a career year. Now I know Kreider is somebody that fans adore, and is a very good candidate for the next captain of this team…but I believe that he, like the others should be sent packing.

Kreids is currently 27 years old, and has this year plus next year (about 1.5 years) left on his contract, and his contract carries a very friendly cap hit of $4.625 million over that time. If number 20 keeps up this pace over the course of this season and next, he will be due for a heavy payday. I believe (as mentioned in a previous post) he will fetch a 7-year deal, carrying an AAV of around $7 million. He will be 29 years old when he puts pen to paper (whether it’s an extension, or he hits FA in July of 2020).

Let me give you some perspective. Last year at the deadline, the Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller trade was arguably the biggest blockbuster of the year. The two of them brought back prospects Libor Hajek, now NHLer Brett Howden, a first round pick in the 2018 draft, a conditional 2nd round pick (becomes a 1st if Tampa wins the cup this year), and Vlad Namestnikov. Many would say that Miller and Namestnikov were a swap, so in the end Mac brought back Hajek, Howden, a 1st round pick, and a conditional 2nd round pick. I for one was thrilled with that trade because if the Rangers kept McDonagh, they would have had to give him a deal of around 6-7 years carrying an AAV of around $7-8 million (remember, we would’ve had to pay more than Tampa did because of state income tax!).

The point is, many fans, including myself, LOVED this move for the reasons stated above. Kreider, who has an AAV of $4.625 million left on his deal over the next year and a half and will be 29 when his new contract kicks in, is a nearly identical situation as Mac was. Mac had a year and a half left on his deal that carried an AAV of $4.7 million, and will be 30 when his new contract kicks in with the Bolts. With all that being said, I think you move Kreider because the return can be a heavy one. I believe Kreider can yield a 1st round pick, another high pick (maybe a 2nd), and two upper level prospects. Boston is a team that needs help due to injury, and the BC product would be a great fit for a Bruins team contending for the cup.

In summary: If the Rangers make these moves, heading into the draft, they can potentially have 5 (yes FIVE) first round picks; their own, a Hayes trade, a Zucc, trade, a Krieder trade, and if Tampa wins the cup the pick becomes a first rounder. It is too early to tell where the Rangers will finish and eventually draft, but it is very possible they pick at the very top and draft 17 year old American center, Jack Hughes.

As for free agency, I think that all NYR fans have their sights set on Russian forward, Artemi Panarin. The Breadman would bring over the highly skilled, 80-point production the Rangers have lacked since Jagr was wearing the C on Broadway in the mid-2000s. To round it out, I wrote a piece on a Brendan Smith buyout. To re-visit that, a buyout would save the Rangers $3.379 million in year one, $1.2 million in year two, and would have a dead cap number of $1.15 million in years 3 and 4….years in which the Rangers books will be wide open. I believe the Rangers should (if possible obviously) draft Hughes, trade Zucc, Hayes, and Kreider, sign Panarin, and buyout Brendan Smith.

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