The past five seasons have been successful ones for the New York Rangers, with eight playoff series victories, three conference final appearances and one Eastern Conference championship, but a woeful showing in the first round this post-season has left the potential for major changes in New York this off-season.
Heading into the summer, the Rangers have only seven forwards and five defensemen from their playoff roster locked up to contracts for the upcoming season, and even those currently under contract could be on the move. According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the only players who are certain to stay are Henrik Lundqvist, defenseman Brady Skjei and rookie Pavel Buchnevich. Outside of that trio, though, Brooks reported the Rangers are “prepared to listen to offers for everyone.”
It might seem inconceivable, but that means the Rangers could be saying goodbye to captain Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and, yes, Rick Nash this off-season. That said, the price will have to be right for the Rangers to move out their top talent.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a firesale for the Rangers where the best offer takes the Blueshirts’ best players. There’s no pressing need to move the likes of Zuccarello, Brassard, Stepan or McDonagh, but New York GM Jeff Gorton could be seeing his roster as one that is about to enter a transition period. It’s not hard to understand why Gorton would want to restock the cupboards, either, because after five deep runs in the post-season the Rangers are just about depleted in terms of top-tier prospects.
In THN’s Future Watch 2016 issue, a panel of scouts ranked the Rangers ranked dead last terms of their strength of prospects. Only one player, Buchnevich, ranked among the top-75 prospects. The Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres were the only other teams to have one prospect in the top 75. It’s not necessarily that the Rangers have drafted poorly so much as the cost of making three consecutive deep post-season runs has cost New York valuable draft picks come the trade deadline.
Since drafting Skjei 28th overall at the 2012 draft, the earliest the Rangers have drafted is 41st at the 2015 draft. In 2014 the Rangers' first pick came at 59 and in 2013 they didn’t select a single player until the third round, 65th overall.
At three consecutive deadlines, the Rangers have dealt away major picks. In 2014, two first-round picks were sent to Tampa Bay to acquire Martin St. Louis, 2015 saw first- and second-round picks traded to Arizona for Keith Yandle and the Rangers gave up two second-rounders for Eric Staal at this past deadline. That’s no way to build up a stock of prospects that can carry you into the future, but Gorton could have the opportunity to land picks and prospects if he moves out some talent at or before the draft.
It had already been reported that the Rangers could attempt to move out Nash, but Brooks says it’s not expected a Nash trade would open up room for them to acquire top free agent Steven Stamkos. The Rangers, Brooks reports, aren’t likely to be top bidders for the Tampa Bay Lightning sniper’s services.
With all the players who could move, though, one familiar face will likely be back after a disappointing year. Defenseman Dan Girardi has not been asked by the Rangers to waive his no-movement clause, Brooks reported, nor will New York buyout the remaining four years and $22 million of the contract.