Rangers Blueprint for a Successful Rebuild

FIRESALE!

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, the Rangers have decided to sell for the first time in over a decade.

Driven by poor play, injuries, and the need to revamp the system with young talent, the Rangers are in an unfamiliar position.  What is going to happen?  What will the Rangers on-ice product look like?  Who will still be here at the end of the season?  Below you will find my blueprint for as successful remainder of the season.

Unrestricted Free Agents

While there is no question that the Rangers will sell, the question is to what degree.  However, regardless of where the Rangers are in two weeks, there is no doubt that their pending UFA’s, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, and David Desharnais will be traded.

I will not go into detail about where they should go or what the Rangers should receive in return.  We have already done that in detail, here, here, and here.  However, suffice it to say that the Rangers need to come out of the deadline with additional 1st round picks, talented prospects, and depth picks.  I personally believe that if we don’t have two 1st rounders or the equivalent thereof, Jeff Gorton failed. Rick Nash should get a 1st and prospects in return.  Michael Grabner should get a 1st rounder if a bidding war ensues.  Nick Holden and David Desharnais should each return a few depth picks or prospects.

Ryan McDonagh

The most intriguing part of this trade deadline and ensuing off season will be seeing what the Rangers do with McDonagh and Zuccarello.  If the Rangers trade the two core players, the Rangers will be truly committed to a rebuild.  If they do not trade them, then this is simply a re-tool in an effort to be competitive next season.

My personal belief is that the Rangers need to listen to any and all offers for both.  However, unless they receive exactly what they want for them, the Rangers should pass and look to trade them at the draft in exchange for a high picks.

Tampa Bay

Currently, Ryan McDonagh has been drawing the most attention of the two.  The Lighting have been the most connected team and are already the favorite in the east.  Adding McDonagh to a core that includes Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman would cement their status as the favorite to come out of the east.  If the Lightning trade for McDonagh then the Rangers need to ask for top prospect/roster player Mikhail Sergachev as the main piece with the Lightning’s 1st round pick as a second piece.  While the Lightning will be extremely hesitant and resistant to move Sergachev, the Rangers have all of the leverage.  They do not NEED to trade McDonagh at this point.  In addition there are other rivals that are interested in McDonagh’s services.

Boston

Last night Elliotte Friedman remarked that the Boston Bruins have shown significant interest in Ryan McDonagh as well.

 

The Bruins are a close second to the Lightning as favorites in the east.  Adding McDonagh would allow the Bruins to close the gap and possibly overtake the Lightning as the front runners in the east.  My concern with the Bruins is that they do not have the elite prospect talent that would warrant a McDonagh trade.  Unless the Bruins include David Pastarnak or Charlie McAvoy (NOT HAPPENING) I do not see a fair trade.  The only situation where the Bruins would part with either, is if McDonagh is packaged with Grabner or Nash.

Mats Zuccarello

Cytil and Zuccarello (Danny Wild/USATSI)

Similar to Ryan McDonagh, Zuccarello has one more year on his contract.  The Rangers do not NEED to trade Zuccarello at the deadline.  Instead they can wait for the right offer to present itself.  If the offer does not appear, Zuccarello can be dealt for high picks and prospects at the draft.  Currently, the chatter around Zuccarello is not at the same level as McDonagh.  However, Zuccarello is a playmaker that is a solid 50-60 point player and would deepen any lineup in the league.  As the deadline nears, expect Zuccarello’s name to appear in a number of rumors.  The Rangers should listen to any and all offers.  However, they must ask for A LOT.  They cannot simply trade Zuc for trading’s sake.  The return must include a high level prospect and a 1st if not more.  If they do not receive a good offer, then hold onto him and deal him at the draft.

Untouchables

In a rebuild there are very few names that are off-limits.  However, I believe that there are a number of players that should be off-limits unless the offer is outrageous.

Henrik Lundqvist

Let me be clear, if Lundqvist would like to be traded then trade Lundqvist to whatever team he wants to go.  Lundqvist deserves a shot at the cup if he wants a shot at a cup.  However, he has repeatedly said that it is more important to him to finish his career in NY than to chase a cup.

That being said, Lundqvist will be able to mentor and teach the young guys as the Rangers rebuild over the next few years.  And who knows, maybe a young talented team backed by a motivated Lundqvist could shorten this rebuild.

Brady Skjei

The Rangers NEED to sign Brady Skjei to a long term deal this off-season.  They cannot make the same mistake they have in years past by bridging him.  There is simply no excuse not to sign him long term.  The Rangers are not going to be pressed against the cap and they should lock him into a team-friendly deal that will keep him in Blue for the next 5-7 years.  Skjei will be a key piece on the Rangers blue line when they are competitive again.  While it will be hard to replace Ryan McDonagh, Skjei is extremely capable and is the type of player that will be a key cog in the next Rangers core.

Pavel Buchnevich

Buchnevich is the Rangers most gifted forward.  While he has not produced elite level points yet, Buchnevich is just coming into his own and will soon be a near-elite player in the league.  Trading Buchnevich would be a disaster.  Since he has not reached his potential, the Rangers would almost definitely get fleeced in any deal.  The Rangers need elite level talent and trading our best shot at that is foolish.

Filip Chytil/Lias Andersson

The Rangers two 1st round draft picks will be critical building blocks for the next Rangers core.  Two very talented centers will allow the Rangers to be deep in an area that they have not been deep in for a long time.  As the only “top” skater prospects in the Rangers organization there is NO reason to move them unless the Rangers receive a King’s Ransom for them.

All Others

I believe that every other Ranger player should be available for the right price.  I do not believe that they should just trade everyone away.  However, if the right offer appears, the Rangers should not be afraid to take the deal if it brings back high upside youth.

Player Deployment

Up until two games ago the Rangers were playing as if they were going to make the playoffs and potentially be buyers at the deadline.  However, the press conference and season ticket holder letter put any thoughts of making a run to rest.  With the Rangers officially deciding to sell they need to see what they have in their prospects.  Players like Vinny Lettieri, Boo Nieves, Neil Pionk, John Gilmour, Ryan Graves and eventually, Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson need to be given a shot.  The Rangers need to put them in a position to succeed and develop.  They cannot bring them up and play them for 7 minutes a game.  They need to play consistent ice time and be allowed to make mistakes without the fear of getting benched.  By doing this, the Rangers will give themselves a better idea of where they need to go next and what

Injuries

It seems like every night another Ranger gets hurt.  At this point in the season the Rangers need their players to get healthy.  They cannot have Kevin Shattenkirk or Chris Kreider return until they are ABSOLUTELY healthy.  There is no point to rushing players back.  The Rangers are not contenders.  There is no reason to rush back and get re-injured.  I know the temptation for every player is there.  Every competitor wants to get back our there and compete.  However, next season is more important.

Head Coach

FIRE AV.  I do not care if it is now or at the end of the season.  The Rangers cannot move forward with Alain Vignault as their head coach if they are rebuilding.  AV is NOT a bad NHL coach.  However, he is not the coach the Rangers need at this point.  The Rangers need a coach that can develop young players and get the best out of them.  AV has shown time and time again that he is not the man for that job.

Pay Tribute

The Rangers have been an extremely successful team over the past 10 or so years.  Multiple Conference Finals and a trip to the Cup Final in 2014 is nothing to shake your head at.  I have nothing but fond memories.  There are so many moments that will define this era of Rangers hockey.  Brad Richards tying the game with seconds remaining followed by Marc Staal ending it in OT against Washington in 2012.

 

 

The Rangers coming back from down 3-1 against Pittsburgh in 2014 and Martin St. Louis giving us moment after moment en route to a Cup Final.

 

 

Chris Kreider singlehandedly keeping the Rangers afloat against the Capitals.

 

 

Ryan McDonagh beating Holtby to win Game 5 in OT.

 

 

Derek Stepan with the winner in Game 7.

 

 

Henrik Lundqvist making save after save, year after year.

 

 

I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING!  I won’t go too much further because Russ has a tribute article coming out soon, however pay tribute and enjoy the good memories.

 

Embrace the Rebuild

I know it will be tough.  As Rangers fans we have been treated to playoff hockey for the past decade.  However, that comes at a cost.  The Rangers pipeline is very bare.  Only savvy signings like Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes have allowed the Rangers to survive without many quality prospects.  The Rangers need to rebuild.  They need to restock the cupboard.  Quality NHL teams are built through the draft and prospects.  It will not be easy to watch the Rangers struggle the next few years, however, it will be worth it to be able to put an annual contender on the ice.  As always LETS GO RANGERS!!