To Rangers GM Chris Drury: This isn’t 1994 so don’t mortgage the future for Patrick Kane

patrick kane rangers
Dec 4, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev (40) looks for the puck after a shot on goal attempt by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) in the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are one of the best teams in the NHL. They currently are first in the Metro Division after 26 games and will stay there, albeit tied, even if the Hurricanes beat the Oilers in Edmonton today.

At 18-5-3 for 39 points, they are also tied with the Minnesota Wild for second overall in the entire league. Impressive all around.

Statistically, they are drawing comparisons to the the Cup winning team of 1994. However, I urge GM Chris Drury to let that end there.

1994 Rangers were a different team in a different era

In 1994, the Rangers were coming into the season considered a Cup contender. Two years prior, they won the Presidents’ Trophy but fell to the eventual champion Penguins in the second round. They were also a team loaded with veteran winners and hired Mike Keenan as coach to take them over the top.

They had Mark Messier, who won 5 Cups with the Oilers, leading the way and a supporting cast of greats. Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mike Richter, Steve Larmer, Kevin Lowe, Sergei Zubov etc…

The previous season, they traded a promising young center in Doug Weight for veteran checking winger Esa Tikkanen. GM Neil Smith was hell bent on bringing in every Oiler he could it seemed.

Despite such a stacked team, at the ’94 trade deadline they gutted their future again 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.

Once all the champagne was gone from the Lord Stanley’s greatest gift to hockey, so was any hope of winning another one. Neil Smith continued to mortgage the future by trading players like Petr Nedved and Sergei Zubov for vets Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson.

There was no salary cap either, so he spent money haphazardly on other agings veterans like Theo Fleury, Valeri Kamensky, Stephane Quintal to name a few. These players were more like mercenaries than anything else, who came for the money but never lived up to the contract.

Chris Drury: Do not mortgage the future

1994 Rangers
Rangers Mark Messier (11) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. Rangers Win Stanley Cup

This season, the Rangers should be in the playoff mix or considered a legit contender when the trade deadline rolls around. There are plenty of rentals to be had, but in recent days the question of acquiring a player like Patrick Kane, should he become available, has arisen.

Longtime Rangers beat writer Larry Brooks proposed an interesting question recently: “Would you trade for Patrick Kane if you were the Rangers?”

Let’s be clear, the entire premise of the article is speculation. Although it immediately harkens back to 1994 and what GM Neil Smith did to end the drought.

Would you get Kane if it cost you Kaapo Kakko (but not Alexis Lafreniere), Nils Lundqvist (or Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson but not Braden Schneider), Vitali Kravtsov (but not Will Cuylle or Brennan Othmann) and a 2022 first-rounder?

NY Post

Brooks’ proposal is akin to the 1994 Rangers basically sacrificing their future to win just one Cup. Players like Weight and Amonte were jettisoned to acquire aging vets or grinders in order to obtain hockey’s holy grail. It worked, but the Rangers never came close again until the 2014 playoffs. Their only Finals appearance since.

Patrick Kane is great but…

Kane, 33, is a Hall of Fame player and would look amazing on a line with Panarin again. He comes with a $10.5M cap hit that the Rangers can’t afford. So in order for this to happen, the Blackhawks will need to eat the full 50% allowed. If they did, it becomes a real tantalizing thought.

However, in the salary cap era, keeping a healthy pool of young talented players on entry level contracts is key to winning championships. Yes, that’s plural if you get my drift.

The Rangers will start feeling a cap crunch next season thanks to players like Kakko coming off his ELC, with Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller to follow in 2022-23. Although trading 10 years of production from Kakko for maybe two Cup runs with Kane makes little sense to me in this day and age.

In truth, the real question is how far will Chris Drury go if the Rangers are at the trade deadline and feel they can win the Stanley Cup? With so many viable rentals that will be UFAs at the end of the season, Drury does not have to make such a move.

Tomas Hertl for Filip Chytil and a first is more digestible to me should Drury feel they are another top forward away from a Cup.

At the end of the day, the Rangers must learn from the painful lessons of 1994. Despite the euphoria in the celebration, I don’t think fans really want that particular championship to “last a lifetime.”

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