Rangers should go big at the draft and trade up for another top pick
Aaahhhhh! The warm weather is finally here. Beach season has arrived. The winter jackets, mittens, and scarves are being replaced by shorts, sunscreen, and flip-flops. Memorial Day weekend has come and gone which means the highly anticipated and eagerly awaited 2019 NHL entry draft in Vancouver is just a few short weeks away.
Unless you’ve been living under a glacier for the last couple of months, I am sure you’re well aware that the New York Rangers will be drafting second on that Friday evening on Canada’s west coast. The Blueshirts are guaranteed of having the opportunity to select one of the two elite, franchise-altering talents in Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. The Hughes/Kakko debate has raged ever since NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daily revealed to the hockey world last month the results of the draft lottery.
The winners of the aforementioned lottery, the New Jersey Devils, will decide which future star will be wearing Devils’ red come September, leaving the Rangers with the “other guy.” This article is not about the much drawn out notion of which young stud will look better donning that beautiful blue sweater. This article is about what John Davidson, Jeff Gorton, and the scouting staff should do with the rest of the draft. One could argue that, if John and Jeff make the right decisions on June 21st and 22nd, the Rangers could be set up as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for the next decade.
It is the belief of this author that the Devils will in fact draft Hughes. After all, the Devils don’t want to be viewed as the NHL version of the Portland Trailblazers. For those who aren’t aware, Portland passed on both Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant in favor of 7-foot centers whose careers were derailed and eventually ruined by an assortment of injuries. The Devils will go the safe route and select the American dynamo leaving the Finnish man-child there for the Blueshirts’ taking.
Now, here is what I would like to see the Rangers brain trust do after the assumed selection of Kakko. I would like to see Jeff Gorton immediately grab the earpiece of the telephone on the table in front of him and call up the Colorado Avalanche – holders of the fourth overall selection. I had written a piece a few months back about the Rangers contacting Colorado if the Avs had won the lottery, about a blockbuster Eric Lindros-type of transaction to move up and grab the number one pick.
The same logic and rationale applies to my hypothetical of contacting the Avs about the fourth overall pick. You see, the Stanley Cup window for the team from the Mile High city is wide open. They are absolutely in a win-now mode. The Avs are a top-heavy team. They need quality, NHL-caliber veterans to provide depth to their growing number of superstars. From their perspective, drafting an 18-year-old with the fourth pick that will need a few years of seasoning and maturation isn’t going to help their current championship aspirations. That is why I believe a deal could be constructed between these two organizations. In my humble opinion, there are several veterans on the Ranger roster that could step in and instantly contribute and provide the depth that the Avs desperately need.
Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey, Vlad Namestnikov, Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo, Jesper Fast, Brendan Smith, the list goes on.
Any combination of such should be dangled in front of the Avalanche to initiate and facilitate discussions. The Rangers could also add some of their excess of draft capital to help the proceedings. The Avs Stanley Cup window may be open, but the Rangers are still a couple of years away. The Blueshirts can afford to let an 18-year-old learn the game on the NHL level and understand what it means to be a professional.
If Kakko’s name is announced by head scout Gordie Clark on Gary Bettman’s podium as the number two selection, he will join the 2018 first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov and, potentially, pending free agent Artemi Panarin, giving the Rangers the most electric and explosive collection of right-wings in the sport. What the Rangers don’t have anywhere in the organization’s prospect pool is an elite-level centerman. While 2017 first-round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil are good kids who could ultimately provide depth, neither are what I would call a true number one pivot.
Moving up to the fourth slot to obtain a potential franchise center like Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, or Dylan Cozens would give the Blueshirts a player they can slot in next to, whom I feel should be the next Ranger captain, Mika Zibanejad, and it would give the team a formidable one-two punch down the middle.
The time for the Rangers to be aggressive is now. The time for the Rangers to expedite the rebuild is among us. The time for the Rangers to set themselves up as perennial cup contenders is obtainable. Imagine for a minute, Davidson, Gorton, and Clark boarding that flight from Vancouver home to New York in possession of the second and fourth overall draft picks. If my hypothetical comes to fruition, there would be a palpable buzz surrounding the Blueshirts, the likes of which we haven’t seen in these parts in quite some time.