New York Rangers’ Offseason Makes Zero Sense So Far

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It is rare for a talented player like John Tavares to hit free agency. When a player of his caliber does hit the open market every team in the NHL should at least call his agent and see what it would take to bring Tavares to their team. However, it leaked earlier that just five teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning were represented for in-person pitches. The New York Islanders captain is also being courted by the Islanders.

The New York Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild. However, that doesn’t mean they should sit out the Tavares sweepstakes. Rangers’ GM Jeff Gorton, however, has been quiet regarding Tavares. We all know the chances of Tavares choosing the Rangers are slim. The Islanders are loaded with young talent at forward and have made front office changes that at least indicate the Islanders are ready to move in the right direction.

Still, no offer being made to the top free agent, especially one from a rival, is just criminal. Instead, Gorton seems ready and willing to use his cap space to help a team like Dallas, Toronto, or Tampa Bay open up cap room to sign Tavares by taking back contracts.

That is like a slap in the face to Rangers’ fans. Gorton is willing to help another team sign Tavares by taking back contracts to free up space for that team but isn’t willing to make an offer to the soon-to-be 28-year-old center? Let’s be honest, Tavares on the Rangers makes them a playoff team. The Rangers could slide Mika Zibanejad to the second line and suddenly a position that looked weak last year is pretty strong. The Rangers could also trade some of their restricted free agents to open up more cap room or to acquire more assets to quicken the rebuild. Instead, the Rangers have been quiet this offseason. Though it was reported they were interested in 35-year-old winger Ilya Kovalchuk before he signed with the Los Angeles Kings.

The interest in Kovalchuk makes even less sense than their quiet approach to Tavares. Why show interest in a winger who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2013 but remain quiet when it comes to a 28-year-old center? It makes no sense.

The Rangers are selling this as a total rebuild but yet this roster still has Mats Zuccarello and Marc Staal on the roster. Which is it? None of the restricted free agents like Kevin Hayes, Vladislav Namestnikov, or Ryan Spooner were moved at the draft. In fact, the draft was a bit of a disaster in own right. The Rangers refused to budge from their board even after top talent fell to them potentially continuing a disastrous history of missing out on elite forwards in the draft.

Obviously the jury is still out on the Rangers’ rebuild but their stubborn approach to the draft, their lack of interest in an elite 28-year-old center, and their keeping Staal and Zuccarello on the team indicates they are only putting one foot in the pool. Can I be wrong about the Rangers? Certainly. But what, in recent weeks, gives Rangers’ fans any hope that this team is headed in the right direction any time soon?

New York Rangers’ Future Not As Dim As You Think

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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.