Rangers have 2 ACES yet to play in order to accelerate the rebuild
As of right now, the Rangers rebuild effort can be considered a success. In truth, the rebuild began when they traded Derek Stepan last summer in order to draft Lias Andersson. Coupled with drafting Filip Chytil with their own 1st round pick, the foundation for the future was laid.
Rentals to Rebuild
By moving three rentals (veterans that will be UFA’s this summer) in Nick Holden, Michael Grabner, and Rick Nash the Rangers added more to their rebuild pool. In three separate deals Jeff Gorton acquired a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick in this year’s draft. That gives them 9 total selections so far.
By acquiring a first-round pick, #NYR now have nine picks in the 2018 NHL Draft, including six picks in the first three rounds and four picks in the first two rounds.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 25, 2018
In addition to those selections, the Rangers added an excellent bottom 6 forward in Ryan Spooner. He can play both C and LW, which adds to his versatility. Spooner is an RFA this summer, but the Rangers should have no problem signing him to a reasonable deal.
The cherry on top of all this are the three prospects on defense they acquired. Starting first with KHL defenseman Yegor Rykov, who is a current teammate of Lundqvist’s heir apparent, Igor Shestyorkin. Also by adding Ryan Lindgren and Rob O’Gara the Rangers have done very well so far.
Accelerating the Rebuild
While Jeff Gorton has stated all players are available except Lundqvist, the two biggest assets he can move in true hockey deals are Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello. Of the two, McDonagh could be the piece that brings over a young scoring forward from a team that has a plethora of them (i.e. Toronto).
Currently we have confirmed that Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida are in on Ryan McDonagh. It is also important to note that the Rangers captain has a 10 team no trade list which may have Florida on it. No matter who obtains him, a 1st round pick is a must and the Panthers obviously have the most attractive potential pick.
Another thing to consider is the amount of pieces coming the Rangers way. If Rick Nash brought back 5, what would either of those two return? The bottom line is this, the rebuild is in full swing but all assets obtained so far will require time to develop. If the Rangers want to speed up the time frame for Lundqvist, they need a proven roster player back in each of those deals.
Will the Leafs or any other team pay up?
As of this writing, Toronto just acquired Tomas Plekanec from Montreal. Not exactly a big response to Boston getting Nash, but obviously an indicator that they know it is now an arms race.
While many names like Connor Brown, Zack Hyman, and Josh Leivo are mentioned by people from the Toronto side, none of them would move the needle for McDonagh. Plus the Rangers have the advantage of not needing to trade him.
Add in the fact that rumor has it that Tampa Bay may be the lead dog to land Erik Karlsson and this put the Leafs between a rock and a hard place. That means giving up one of their biggest and most promising forwards not named Auston Matthews has to be considered.
In fairness, Mitch Marner leads them in scoring and William Nylander is third. Trading one to create a hole somewhere else is not ideal. But who said the deal only needs to be for McDonagh? Could both McDonagh and Zuccarello be packaged in a blockbuster to Toronto? Or maybe McDonagh and a player like JT Miller or Chris Kreider?
As you can see, this starts to change the entire dynamic. No matter what, the Rangers are obviously at the poker table and have 2 ACES yet to play.
It’s time for other teams to ante up and pay.