Should they or shouldn’t they? That is the question.
Early Friday afternoon, the NY Post’s Larry Brooks broke the story that the Rangers are preparing for a full on fire sale at the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline; February 26th.
As Brooks puts it, “There is no ambivalence within management. The Blueshirts, we’re told, view the Feb. 26 trade deadline as a unique opportunity to refresh the roster and replenish the organization, regardless of where the club stands in relation to a playoff spot.”
Whether this is a ploy to motivate the team or not, for the moment let’s assume the Blueshirts are indeed prepared to tear the team apart.
Brooks named Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, David Desharnais, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh as the players most likely to be dealt.
That’s quite an impressive list of players the Rangers are preparing to part with.
As such, let’s examine the pros and cons of such a move.
PRO: STOCKPILE ASSETS
Every team desires to build through the draft; that’s why it exists.
And as any General Manager will tell you, “whenever possible we prefer to build from within.”
Brooks estimates that Nash, Grabner, Zuccarello and McDonagh will each bring back multiple pieces; including several first-round draft picks.
If true, then G.M. Jeff Gorton’s eyes should light up like a Christmas tree.
One thing the Blueshirts have been missing since the start of their seven-year playoff-streak is first-round draft picks.
Beginning with the 2011 NHL Entry Draft the Rangers have made just four first-round selections; two of which came in the 2017 Draft.
Therefore, any chance to gather those coveted first-round slots should be met with enthusiasm and even greed.
With as many as four first-rounders to be gained by trading the aforementioned players, Gorton should enter the 2018 NHL Entry Draft like a King on his throne.
CON: RISK GREATER THAN REWARD
For all the glitz and glam afforded to Draft Day and the players selected, there is a dark side to the process.
And it’s a rather simple one.
The odds of a draft pick — in any round — actually succeeding aren’t high.
Teams have been known to mortgage their future just to move up in the draft. And often times it doesn’t work out the way they had hoped. (Looking at you Cleveland Browns).
Over the last five drafts (2013-2017) there have been 151 first-round selections made.
How many have gone on to become productive NHLers? (For the purpose of this exercise a player is considered productive if they have a points-per-game ratio above 0.50).
That’s a hair above 21%.
In other words, roughly 79% of the players drafted in the first-round of the last five drafts have not panned out.
That’s a pretty low reward for such a high risk.
So even if the Rangers managed to net four first-rounders from their trades, odds are maybe one of them becomes a successful NHLer.
Would you trade the wealth of talent being discussed for such slim odds? Probably not.
Besides, most of the teams that would be looking to trade for these players are either A) division rivals, or B) draft late in the first-round.
How many players taken in the final third (picks 20-31) of the first-round go on to be successful?
Again using the last five drafts as a guide, the answer is six. Six out of 56 draft picks have become productive players.
Still doesn’t seem worth the risk.
PRO: NEW BEGINNINGS
Since reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 the Rangers are among the top-five teams in playoff games played and playoff wins.
And they’ve done it with largely the same core of players.
From 2012 to 2015 the Blueshirts went to three Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final.
That’s quite a successful run. But even with all that, they never won the big one; the Stanley Cup.
In hockey, just like all sports, things run in cycles.
And the Rangers current cycle is just about done.
Could the Blueshirts make a few moves and squeak into the playoffs this season? Sure.
Would it be worth making the playoffs to go one-and-done? And then face the same issues next season?
No it wouldn’t.
Teams don’t play the game just to make the playoffs. They play the game to win the championship.
By trading away older core members and replacing them with younger faster players, the Blueshirts can position themselves as legitimate contenders in the future.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup; not to fall short every year.
And with a new core built around the likes J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei, the Rangers could finally achieve their dream.
CON: RECENT TRADE HISTORY
If there’s one reason to have trepidation about blowing up the team it’s this; the Blueshirts don’t have a good history of making trades recently.
Dating back to March 1, 2015, the Rangers have made eight trades of consequence.
And aside from sending Derick Brassard plus a draft pick to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad and a draft pick — which can be considered even at the moment — the Blueshirts haven’t come out on the winning end of any of their trades.
The acquisition of Keith Yandle cost the Rangers Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a 2016 first-rounder and 2015 second-rounder.
And the subsequent trade of Yandle’s rights to Florida a year later for a 2016 sixth-round pick and 2017 conditional fourth-round pick, is a clear indicator of the Blueshirts’ inability to come out on top in a trade.
Yandle was never a good fit in Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s system and he was traded for pennies on the dollar after a little over a year with the team.
The trades of Carl Hagelin and Cam Talbot were motivated out of a desire to move them before the team couldn’t afford them. Neither trade has benefited the Rangers at this point.
Compounding the problem, Hagelin has won two Stanley Cup championships with the Penguins since the Blueshirts initially sent him to Anaheim.
The 2016 trade deadline deal for Eric Staal was ill-conceived from the beginning. And it looks even worse when you realize he’s had a career-resurgence with the Wild after the Rangers let him walk.
Brendan Smith was acquired at last year’s deadline and while he didn’t cost the Blueshirts much in the way of draft picks, his subsequent re-signing with the team hasn’t gone as planned.
Smith has drawn Vigneault’s ire on multiple occasions this season; being scratched for multiple games at a time. Here’s to betting the Rangers would like a do over on this one.
Finally is the watershed trade that sent fan-favorite Derek Stepan and reliable backup goalie Antti Raanta to Arizona for Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 first-rounder.
At this point, DeAngelo has been sent to the minors twice. And the first-round pick was used to draft Lias Andersson, who hasn’t yet made his NHL debut.
The Blueshirts should absolutely see what they can get for Nash and Grabner; both of whom are on expiring contracts.
The Rangers should trade Holden and Desharnais only if they can get back players ready to step into their roles. Or if they have somebody down on the farm that’s ready to contribute.
As for McDonagh and Zuccarello; hold on to them at least until next year’s deadline.