The New York Rangers fell flat this past season and GM Jeff Gorton sold off assets and set the team up fairly well for the future, at least for this year and next year’s draft while also adding young talent. Gorton will continue to rework the roster, getting younger and more athletic to keep pace with the current trend of the NHL. There is still a lot of work to be done but the Rangers might be better off now than they were at this point last season.
The Rangers will have between $25 and $30 million in cap space depending on where the NHL sets next season’s number. They currently have 13 players under contract and could possibly make some deals leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft to acquire more picks or trade up to select potentially elite talent. Gorton didn’t use all of his ammunition at the trade deadline and could use fan favorite Mats Zuccarello, who is entering the last year of his contract and is owed $4.5 million, as a means to acquire more picks or a younger, cheaper player. Jimmy Vesey, Ryan Spooner, Kevin Hayes and Vladimir Namestnikov are all entering restricted free agency and Gorton could re-sign or trade their rights. There is also a chance that these players would be brought back
There are options for Gorton and the Rangers. There are already rumors that they are interested in Ilya Kovalchuk and Gorton has confirmed he has spoken to Kovalchuk. Adding Kovalchuk doesn’t make much sense for a team that is rebuilding but the Rangers aren’t truly rebuilding. They are reloading. There is also the idea that adding Kovalchuk could help bring along the Rangers’ own Russian players. He is an icon that showed he still had ability during the 2018 Winter Olympics. If the Rangers did sign him it would give them a legitimate scoring winger who could provide leadership to a young team, especially the young Russians like Pavel Buchnevich, Namestnikov, and Alexei Bereglazov. It might not be the greatest move but it could be beneficial.
The Rangers have 10 draft picks in this coming NHL Draft including three in the first round. Their highest pick is ninth, not ideal but not awful. There is a bit of elite talent at the top of this draft and Gorton might be able to move up to ensure he gets an elite prospect. They also currently have nine picks in next year’s draft, including a conditional first-round pick from Tampa which at worst would become a second-round pick. Gorton has something none of his predecessors have had in recent memory, currency.
This past season might have been a dark one. Falling to ninth in the draft wasn’t exactly what Rangers’ fans had in mind but Gorton has the ability to move up and other assets to acquire more picks if he so desires. When you combine those assets with the Rangers’ young players like Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad, Brady Skjei, Neal Pionk, Vesey, Namestnikov, Spooner, Filip Chytil, and Lias Andersson the future might not be bleak at all.
The Rangers had a very good run over the last few years but you can’t count them out for next season just yet. They have some solid youth, decent veteran players, Henrik Lundqvist, and a slew of draft capital. They are also expected to make a run at elite free agent John Tavares which would give them the elite player they have so desperately craved in recent years. There is a lot to be happy about heading into this offseason if you’re a Rangers fan.