Rangers trading Alexis Lafrenière or Kaapo Kakko would be disastrous

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Nov 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) follows the play during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are good. Actually they are very good, even with their recent hiccup going 1-2 in the last three games.

Igor Shesterkin and the power play are two obvious reasons for their 29-14-4 record. Another key factor has been their resiliency, an intangible thing that can be hard to quantify in a stat. However, 10 come from behind victories is indicative of just how tough the Rangers can be this season.

They are currently second in the Metro Division with 62 points, but more importantly 18 points up on the final Wild Card spot. With the playoffs becoming a reality and the NHL Trade Deadline 7 weeks away, GM Chris Drury is going to take a run at some potentially big names.

New York Rangers will be active in the trade market

The Blueshirts have already been attached to some of the biggest names on the market to date. They have needs, primarily on the right wing of the second line. It would also not surprise anyone if they made a play for a defenseman.

You’ve heard they made an offer for blue-liner Jakob Chychrun. They are heavily interested in J.T. Miller, and Tomas Hertl. Other names bandied about are Reilly Smith, Tyler Toffoli, and Mark Giordano. Now we are hearing players like Jake DeBrusk and Conor Garland.

I am sure there will be more.

But this isn’t about who the Rangers are going after, it’s about who do they give up to get them? Because Drury isn’t looking to add just one rental on March 21. From all accounts, it may be two or three players.

And with only one first round pick in his pocket, Drury is going to have to dip into his pool of young players and prospects.

Trading Lafrenière or Kakko would be a disaster

alexis lafreniere kaapo kakko
Mar 19, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Hartford Wolf Pack and acting New York Rangers head coach Kris Knoblauch (L) looks on from behind the bench against the New York Rangers in the second period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When owner James Dolan let John Davidson and Jeff Gorton go, he not only signaled the end of the rebuild, he ordered the path to contention expedited.

“Honestly, we have enough talent now to compete for a Stanley Cup,” Dolan told the Post afterwards. “But other owners, other general managers have been telling me for a year that they can’t believe how stocked we are with talent, but talent alone doesn’t do it. We’re missing this piece and we need it.”

So with the Rangers in contention, what will Drury do as a first time GM with a mandate to win from the man who owns the team. What if an incredible offer comes up involving Alexis Lafrenière or Kaapo Kakko. Will he pass it up?

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Canucks are willing to trade both J.T. Miller and Conor Garland with salary retention to the Rangers for Lafrenière, Flip Chytil, Nils Lundkvist, and a first round pick. Would Drury pass that up?

While it may certainly give them a boost in these playoffs, the trading of Lafrenière or Kakko would be disastrous.

Learn from your past

The odds of moving up as much as the Rangers did in the draft lottery, not once but twice in consecutive years is astronomical. In 2019, they selected #2 to take Kakko. They then won the big prize in 2020 to select Lafrenière first overall.

Imagine drafting two of the most highly touted prospects in their respective draft classes. Both just 20 years old with a decade of dominance not too far away. No wonder other teams screamed for changes to the lottery system.

The Rangers need to learn from their past. This isn’t 1994, where Mark Messier and company were considered a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

Yes, GM Neil Smith went for and won it all, but he paid a steep price. He swung for the fences for years and mortgaged the future of the franchise for just one Cup. It eventually cost him his job and 8 years of no playoff hockey for the Rangers.

During the 1992-93 campaign, they traded a promising young center in Doug Weight for veteran checking winger Esa Tikkanen. And despite having a stacked team, at the ’94 trade deadline they gutted their future even more. This time by trading 23 year-old Tony Amonte for two grinders in Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan. There were other moves that sacrificed youth but winning the Stanley Cup after 54 years was worth it.

However, once all the champagne was gone from Lord Stanley’s greatest gift to hockey, so was any hope of winning another one. Neil Smith continued to swing (and miss) for another shot at glory by trading players like Petr Nedved and Sergei Zubov for veterans Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson.

Sergei Zubov had his number retired in Dallas the same night Henrik Lundqvist did in New York if you’re wondering how that trade went.

Keep Lafrenière and Kakko

You only have so many chances to win the Stanley Cup. If the Rangers really think they can at the deadline, Chris Drury should absolutely dip into the youth and prospect pool to do it.

Considering how deep the team is on defense, maybe you have to part with a player like Lundkvist or Zac Jones. Should the deal be too good to pass up, Drury can consider parting with K’Andre Miller. A move I would be against for the record, since he is just scraping the surface of how good he can be.

However, Lafrenière and Kakko must remain in the untouchables class. They are both still just 20 years-old.

Lafrenière played in his 100th NHL game on Sunday and picked up the 21st goal of his career. Kakko is currently on IR and has 24 goals in 151 contests.

Yet there’s been talks about moving them this season. What is anyone thinking about trading either one of these kids for?

Is it because they didn’t storm out of the gate like Connor McDavid?

Edmonton was a different team with different circumstances. The Rangers were not a dead last team like the Oilers and competed for playoff spots both times they won the lottery.

Bottom line, Lafrenière and Kakko are ancillary players right now on the Rangers. As Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad rule the roost today, those two kids will be the pillars of future success beyond these next few seasons.

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