The NHL trade deadline has come and gone as we saw the New York Rangers be one of the more active teams. But unlike the past few trade deadlines, the Blueshirts were sellers instead of buyers.
A letter written to the fans on Feb. 8 by the team’s general manager Jeff Gorton and president Glen Sather let the fanbase know that the team would be rebuilding going forward.
The letter indicated a rebuild was on the horizon, saying that, “As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character. This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect.”
Familiar faces have already been traded for the Rangers. This includes the blockbuster deal that occurred on the day of the deadline with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers traded captain Ryan McDonagh and forward JT Miller for Tampa’s 2018 first-round pick, a conditional second round pick and current Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The Rangers also acquired two prospects in forward Brett Howden and defenseman Libor Hajek in the deal.
While there were some who criticized the return that the Rangers received from Tampa Bay saying that it was underwhelming, it’s too early to judge this trade from the Rangers perspective. While Namestnikov is 25-years-old and is in his third full NHL season, Howden is 19 and currently playing in the WHL. Hajek is 20 and also currently plays in the WHL.
Howden and Hajek are a year or two away from the NHL, and it remains to be seen whether or not they will be a key part of the future of the team. It’s tough that the Rangers had to trade their captain in Ryan McDonagh, as well as a young forward in JT Miller. However, it was the necessary move to make for the future of the team. McDonagh is set to become a free agent in the summer of 2019. It seems like the Rangers were not willing to give him a pricey contract extension, so why not get something for him before he leaves the team?
The Rangers also parted ways with Rick Nash, who was traded to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 25 for Boston’s 2018 first-round pick, defensive prospect Ryan Lindgren and forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey. The Rangers also traded veteran defenseman Nick Holden to the Bruins on Feb. 20 for Boston’s 2018 third and seventh-round draft pick. The Rangers also acquired defenseman Rob O’Gara in the deal.
The Rangers got a solid return for the veteran forward Nash, who has scored 18 goals and 10 assists so far this season. Nash is set to be a free agent this coming summer, and it is possible that Nash returns to Broadway during the summer.
It is also possible for another former Ranger who was just traded to return in the summer. This is Michael Grabner as the Rangers made their first ever trade with the rival New Jersey Devils on Feb. 23 as he was shipped to Jersey for the Devils 2018 second-round draft pick and defensive prospect Yegor Rykov.
This was a monumental deadline for the New York Rangers with the moves they made. I credit the team’s front office for acknowledging that the team needs to rebuild. But in order for these trades to work out, besides the prospects acquired becoming good players for the team, it is imperative for Jeff Gorton to draft well.
With the trades made by the team in the past couple of weeks, the Rangers currently have seven draft picks in the first three rounds of the 2018. Three of those draft picks are in the first round with one of those picks most likely being in the top 10 at the very least.
It’s a time of transition for the New York Rangers with the team embracing the idea of rebuilding after an era that saw the team appear in the playoffs in every season since the lockout with the exception of 2009-10. From 2012-17, the team won a President’s Trophy, went to the Eastern Conference three times and also reached the Stanley Cup Final one time as well. It was a great era for the team, but they unfortunately came up short of the main goal, which is lifting that Stanley Cup.
Key players from that era have been traded as we are about to embark on a new era of New York Rangers hockey. It’s going to take time until the team competes for a Stanley Cup again so to my fellow Blueshirt fans, be patient.