Jeff Gorton’s Five Best Trades As Rangers GM

USA Today

The year 2015 wasn’t too long ago, but it seems like eons given how active Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has been in the trade market. From minor trades to major blockbusters, the Rangers have cycled through a plethora of players over the past several years.

While a select few still believe Gorton is not anything special, it is hard to find a Rangers fan who disapproves of all the work that Rangers GM has done of late.

Of course, Gorton’s activity spiked up when the Rangers announced a rebuild a year and a half ago, and that’s when things really started to get interesting. Let’s take a look at what I believe to be Gorton’s five greatest trades since taking over four years ago.

5. Trade for Yegor Rykov

At the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, the Rangers traded forward Michael Grabner to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Yegor Rykov and a second-round draft pick.

This trade was a good one for a variety of reasons. Rykov is an excellent young prospect who has a good chance of being in the Rangers lineup on opening night. He is a solid two-way defender who could easily have a lengthy career as a dependable top-six defenseman in the NHL.

Despite Rykov’s favorable scouting report, he is not what made this trade a good one in the end. The Rangers were able to use the second-round pick, along with another pick, to move up in the draft and select defenseman K’Andre Miller. Miller is one of the NHL’s top blue line prospects.

4. Rick Nash Trade

In 2018, the Rangers traded Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins in exchange for forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-rounder, and a 2019 seventh-rounder.

This trade helped the Rangers a ton. First off, Lindgren is a solid defensive prospect who could compete in the Rangers system the next few seasons. I expect him to potentially be the Rangers’ seventh defenseman.

The first-round draft pick was used in conjunction with the second-rounder received from the Devils to move up and select Miller. That was the biggest part of that trade with Boston, as Miller is expected to be a Blueshirt for years to come.

And then Ryan Spooner was flipped to the Edmonton Oilers this past season in exchange for Ryan Strome. Spooner continued moving teams after that, while Strome put up solid bottom-six stats for New York. The trade that sent Nash to Boston worked well for the Rangers on a variety of levels.

3. Ryan McDonagh/JT Miller Trade

This was the biggest trade to immediately follow the Rangers rebuild announcement.

The Rangers traded captain Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Vladislav Namestnikov and Brett Howden, defenseman Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-rounder, and a 2019 second-rounder.

JT Miller did not work out for the Lightning, who shipped him off to the Vancouver Canucks this offseason. Namestnikov has been average in New York, but he’s not part of the excitement surrounding this trade.

The Rangers used the first-round pick to select defenseman Nils Lundkvist in the 2018 draft. Lundkvist, along with Miller, is expected to be a key piece of the Rangers defense over the next decade.

In addition, Libor Hajek is a promising prospect who will likely be competing with Rykov for a spot in the opening night lineup in October. He is a stay-at-home defender who pairs well with offensive defensemen.

Lastly, the Rangers also got Howden. A good, young centerman, Howden is an excellent play-maker who has second-line potential. He will likely fill the role of third or fourth-line center in years to come.

2. Acquiring Jacob Trouba

Just a few short weeks ago, the Rangers acquired star defenseman Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for defenseman Neal Pionk and a first-round draft pick.

This was highway robbery and one of Gorton’s best trades by far. Neal Pionk has some upside, but he clearly has a long way to go before he is a complete defenseman. I’m not saying the Jets don’t watch game tape, but maybe they took too many bathroom breaks while doing so. Pionk is going to really disappoint some people over there.

What’s even better about this trade is that the draft pick wasn’t even owned by Rangers. They had received it when they traded Kevin Hayes to the Jets. So the Rangers basically returned Winnipeg’s own draft pick and tacked on an average young player for one of the best young defensemen in the league.

1. Rangers Acquire Mika Zibanejad

You should’ve known this was coming. Jeff Gorton executed one of the most one-sided trades to occur in the NHL in recent years when he acquired Zibanejad and a second-round pick from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick.

Brassard went into decline in Ottawa. In the few years following this trade, he has since been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, then to the Florida Panthers, and then finally to the Colorado Avalanche. Brassard isn’t a bad player, but he is nowhere close to the player he was in New York.

Meanwhile, Zibanejad has become the Rangers first line centerman and has begun to develop into a potentially elite force in the NHL. Still only in his mid-20’s, Zibanejad is not even close to being fully developed. The Rangers won this trade by the widest margin imaginable, and it is paying off gloriously.

Side Note:

Many of you could be wondering how I didn’t include the trade that brought over Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in 2017. While this has the potential to be a great trade, it hasn’t show it yet. That pick was used on Lias Andersson, who is an excellent prospect. But he has not shown enough in my opinion to warrant the trade being a success. DeAngelo is a good player but likely won’t be a Ranger a few seasons down the line. The jury is still out on this one, in my opinion.

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