Where The Rangers Could Stand After A Possible Fire Sale
If the Rangers are truly in a rebuild, they better fully hit the reset button. Trading away the majority, if not all of the current everyday roster players would make the rebuild of the Rangers an early success, and it needs to be done.
If the Rangers want to start from scratch, that means we must say goodbye to a good chunk of the faces Rangers fans have come accustomed to seeing game in and game out. Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider are the three main forwards that the Rangers must shop at the deadline. Now is the time to get the best return for these players and build your prospect pool and draft picks.
Looking at the Rangers prospect pool and draft picks before these guys get traded away, it’s quite impressive what Jeff Gorton has pulled off in about a year since establishing the rebuild motto. Acquiring top center prospect Brett Howden from the Tampa Bay Lightning seems to have paid off already, even if Howden was just one of the multiple pieces from the Lightning, since he surprisingly made the opening night roster this season and has played in 47 games for David Quinn. The list continues on to prospects that the Rangers have high hopes for, including Libor Hajek, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Vitali Kravtsov, and more.
So let’s pretend the Rangers do trade trade Hayes, Zuccarello, and Kreider. Where do the Rangers stand as an organization going forward?
When the Rangers decided to rebuild, I thought it was the right decision, but tons of tough calls were going to be made. Jeff Gorton stuck to his word by trading away Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller last season, so I don’t see why this trend won’t continue.
Starting with Kevin Hayes, who has had his best year yet in his short career, has an expiring contract at the end of this season and has been open about how much he will demand come summer. That number seems to be around the $7 million per year mark, which seems to be par for the course for a player of his style in the current NHL. His name has been the most talked about as a trading piece, and the return would be something nice.
Comparing what the Rangers got for aging forward Rick Nash at last year’s deadline, which included a first-round pick along with two NHL experienced players and a defensive prospect, I would expect the Rangers to get even more for a 26-year-old Hayes. The return for Hayes would be a guaranteed first-rounder along with a top prospect and an NHL-ready player, or more draft picks and prospects. This is a no-brainer to build your farm system, and who knows, maybe Hayes re-signs with the Rangers in the summer after they’ve already bolstered their farm system from trading him.
Next is fan favorite Mats Zuccarello. It’s time for the Rangers to dish out Zuccarello for a high draft pick and a prospect. Zuccarello struggled early this season while also battling an injury, but seems to have returned to his normal self over the past couple of weeks. Perfect timing for his game to step up, as the trade deadline approaches. Zuccarello is now in his 30s, and since he can easily bring in a high pick and solid prospect, there is no reason not to get rid of him. Zuccarello also holds a nice salary cap hit at $4.5 million, but is also a free agent come season’s end. The market will be hot for Zuccarello and it would be a surprise if the Rangers don’t pull the trigger and boost their prospect pool some more.
Lastly, Chris Kreider. A guy not talked about as much as the aforementioned two guys, but someone the Rangers should shop. Kreider holds one year left on his contract after this season, a reasonable hit at $4.625 million. The strong-speedster leads the Rangers in goals with 22 this year, and has been having a good year all around. The return for Kreider would be similar to the Hayes return, if I had to venture a guess, but I think he is the least likely to be traded out of the three.
But, for the sake of the game we’re playing, let’s pretend he is. That’s a first round draft pick and multiple prospects, almost guaranteed. I mean, how often do you come across a 27-year-old speedy winger with the toughness to stand in front of the net and score goals?
The trade deadline has passed and the Rangers got rid of all three of these guys. They have added a minimum of two first-round picks, and at least four prospects, some highly touted, to their roster. The rebuild is a success, they have the guys on the roster they want, once they dive into free agency, and Jeff Gorton has flipped the organization around better than anyone expected. Don’t be afraid to let go of the guys you once fell in love with, because the return will be worth it in the long run. And you better believe that.