Rangers prioritizing long-term success and winning Stanley Cup

NHL: NHL Draft
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The New York Rangers could have gone all in if they wanted to at the NHL Trade Deadline. Other contenders most certainly did, like the Vegas Golden Knights, who utilized their LTIR cap relief and mortgaged their future acquiring forwards Tomas Hertl and Anthony Mantha, plus defenseman Noah Hanifin.

Vegas gave up a lot to get those players, including their first-round picks in 2025 and 2026. It’s a steep price to pay for the defending champs, but many contenders don’t care about tomorrow.

Looking within the Rangers’ own division, the Carolina Hurricanes did the same thing trading for Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov. In making those two moves, the Canes gave up a good player in Michael Bunting, three very good prospects, and two draft picks (potentially three if they win the Stanley Cup) in hopes of going all the way this spring.

That’s the price of doing business, but in a salary cap world, it could also hasten your demise as one of the League’s best teams.

Related: Rangers did a tremendous job at the deadline

Rangers prioritized long-term success ahead of trade deadline

NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at New York Rangers
Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

As the Rangers continue their excellent season, it’s refreshing to see that general manager Chris Drury did not fall for the bait of robbing from the future for a shot at one single Stanley Cup today. Leading up to the March 8 deadline, the Rangers were linked to Guentzel with varying reports on just how serious they really were in trying to acquire him.

“It got to a point where the only team that could outbid [Carolina] for the winger was the Rangers,” Elliotte Friedman wrote. “But New York made a calculated decision not to include the prospect(s) Pittsburgh desired — although the Penguins gave New York ample time to change its mind.”

Drury wisely refused to part with the organization’s two best prospects (Brennan Othmann and Gabe Perreault) and opted to keep his faith invested in 2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko.

“He’s a terrific young player who continues to grow and learn,” Drury said of Kakko. “We’re going to keep supporting him and working with him. I think he’s going find his game and even do more.”

Kakko is still just 23-years-old, but has been a disappointment from the perspective of being such a high draft selection. He only has 12 points in 45 games this season, and just 110 points in 284 regular-season games overall. However, the skilled winger has shown flashes of brilliance that can’t be ignored.

“Holding on to [Kaapo] Kakko, to me, is like a pseudo-trade for them because I still think he can pop for them,” ESPN’s Don LaGreca told Forever Blueshirts. “I see it… He can puck-handle in very limited space, he’s creating opportunities. Will he ever justify the second pick overall? Likely not. … But to be able to hold on to Kakko, [Rangers general manager Chris Drury] did a tremendous job.”

Meanwhile, not trading either Othmann or Perreault speaks to looking at success in the near and not-too-distant future respectively.

Othmann, 21, was selected 16th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Since being drafted, he’s been a part of winning two World Junior Championships with Team Canada (2022, 2023) and an OHL title with the Peterborough Petes (2023).

Naturally a left wing, the Rangers’ organization recently shifted Othmann to the right wing with the Hartford Wolf Pack. It’s a wise move looking to avoid the logjam on the left side currently filled by Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Will Cuylle. To date, the rookie has 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points in 52 AHL games.

Finally, the Rangers newest first-round pick, 23rd overall in 2023, is having an amazing freshman season with the Boston College Eagles.

Perreault was unanimously named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team on Wednesday thanks to being fourth overall in conference scoring with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 20 games. The 18-year-old forward also was a major contributor for Team USA’s gold medal win at the 2024 World Juniors finishing the tournament with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in seven games.

Ultimately, the Rangers still have a great chance to win the Stanley Cup this season. The additions of Alexander Wennberg, Jack Roslovic, and Chad Ruhwedel were about fitting in the right pieces. In making those moves, Drury only gave up a few draft picks, with the highest being this summer’s second-round selection.

Opting to keep this season’s first-round pick, Kakko, Othmann and Perreault says a lot. It means if the Rangers don’t pull it off in these playoffs, they can reload and use assets for another shot at it at the next deadline.

Or better yet, use those assets for a chance to repeat.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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