Remember almost a year ago when the Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather issued a letter to the New York Rangers fanbase admitting to a rebuild? That whole “Today we want to talk to you about the future” gig? The thing about “building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender?”
How’s that going?
The trade deadline last year saw the Rangers offload Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller on Tampa, send Rick Nash and Nick Holden to Boston, tip Michael Grabner to New Jersey, and so forth. Since then, the Blueshirts have made a few fundamental swaps.
And now, with the bye week upon them, New York is ready to measure the sticks once more. This year’s trade deadline figures to be more of the same, with a few bigger deals and a few bigger players hitting the exits.
The Rangers gave off a flair for confidence early this season, going 9-1-1 into Thanksgiving before settling back into the anticipated shape of a lacklustre hockey team.
They’re now 21-20-7, two points behind the Hurricanes and five ahead of the Flyers.
And that foundation-building thing is still a thing. That means the Rangers will be fielding calls.
Mats Zuccarello seems a certain sale. The 31-year-old is on an expiring deal, so New York will want to swap him for a set of middle-of-the-road draft picks. There are issues with deteriorating production that hurt his total value, so Broadway shouldn’t expect much – especially if they wait all the way until the deadline to pull it off.
There are others in the mix, like Chris Kreider. He has two years to go and has been the subject of calls, while Kevin Hayes is also on the list. The latter is adaptable and has an upside bigger than Zuccarello, so he could be packaged up for a nice return.
The only safe-ish players on the Rangers are Henrik Lundqvist and possibly Marc Staal, as they have tenure and hold no-movement clauses. That doesn’t mean they won’t be suspended as bait or won’t be up for a change if the right deal comes along. Lundqvist wants to chase that silver and waiving that clause could be an opportunity if something shines bright enough.
There are also rumours of a “deal of some magnitude” emerging between the Rangers and Colorado, maybe even sometime soon-ish.
Other players have no-trade clauses or list deals or whatever, like Kevin Shattenkirk and his 10-team no-trade list. This can confound things to a point, but one has to imagine the Rangers are looking at just about any option. All indications suggest that the phone lines are open and the fire sale is on in for this rebuilding New York club.