The Big Apple has seen a Rangers club struggle to reach its potential this year. But the future is bright, and may be here far sooner than most think.
The season has not gone as expected for the New York Rangers.
Despite receiving a massive haul for Connor McDavid, the team struggled to get results resulting in key parts of that deal also leaving to bring in Leon Draisaitl and a large number of quality prospects.
The Rangers actually are one win off from the final wild card team, the Carolina Hurricanes, with 23 regulation wins - but the shootout and "loser points" have favoured their Eastern rivals. The Rangers are currently 10 points out and would have to leap frog 5 teams to secure a spot.
This means the team has the look of a clear seller. So let’s look at the current roster and speculate who could be on the move.
Line 1: Timo Meier / Leon Draisaitl / Chris Kreider
Line 2: Filip Zadina / Nico Hischer / Jonathan Drouin
Line 3: Philip Tomasino / Max Domi / Alexander Holtz
Line 4: Chris Stewart / Andrew Cogliano
At the time of writing this article, Andrew Cogliano is already reportedly on his way out so he is the most likely to move and his line mates could certainly move as well as useful depth pieces for a playoff team.
The 3rd line features Domi who has been a point per game player since joining the Rangers and is known to be a favourite of GM Sean McAndrews. His line-mates are high-end young players and are unlikely to go anywhere this year.
Out of the top 6 there is reportedly a lot of interest in Drouin who has had some solid production, is versatile playing boith wings, and has a very nice contract at $2.5M for 4 years. With a four year deal in hand there is no rush to move him but if a big offer came with some high-end young talent, the Rangers might be tempted to add to the their considerable prospect capital.
Draisaitl is not going anywhere unless a McDavid type deal comes along, Kreider has a no-trade clause, Meier is just scratching the surface of what he can do, and Zadina and Hischer have produced well and are young with high upside. In other words, Drouin might move out of the top 6 but don’t expect much else.
Next let’s look at the D.
Pairing 1: Doughty / Sergachev
Pairing 2: Stone / Hronek
Pairing 3: Boqvist / Dobson / DeKeyser
The defense was not performing great before shipping out steady Finn Olli Maatta and including Jakub Chychrun in the Draisaitl deal. It could get worse if a long rumoured deal materializes for Drew Doughty.
A lot of people are wondering why Doughty hasn’t been moved but the asking price is considered to be very high and his contract is difficult to wedge into the cap for some teams. He could still be moved in the right deal but Rangers management also wouldn’t mind him eating up tough minutes while some of the youth on the blue-line matures.
Stone and DeKeyser could move if someone wants them but the other players aren’t likely to move.
In goal, Semyon Varlamov has not played well despite having really strong ratings but true #1 goalies are hard to come by. If a contender sees him as an upgrade and believes he will perform better for their team he could be moved but the Rangers would likely want a solid goalie coming back.
So we’ve looked at what could be going out. What could be coming back?
One could assume that if veterans are shipped it would be for more and more youth and that could be true but the recent deals have already added so much there. The Rangers strategy is likely to restock the cupboards quickly through these deals and then look to add some proven NHL talent through free agency or using some prospect/draft capital in trades.
Their top 6 forwards are still very high end and with a little more time to gel results could be better. Look for the bottom 6 to be filled by some of the youth as it progresses. With the contracts that have moved out the Rangers have cap space to spend. The defense will need a lot of work, especially if Doughty is traded, but there should be some solid veterans coming available in the offseason.
In short, the Rangers could look to add some more youth for depth but may be content to sit on their most valuable veterans remaining on the roster unless they are blown away. The Rangers have been involved in a lot of big deals already and may have got most of their business out of the way ahead of the deadline.
We thought it would be interesting to look at their biggest deal of the year and the “trade tree” that resulted. Here is a look at the assets that came in from the McDavid deal. Picks not included as a 1st came in and a 2nd and two 3rds went out so considered relatively even overall.
Trade 1: McDavid, Anisimov, Dillon for Scheifele, Hubredeau, Meier, Dobson, Kravtsov
Trade 2: Scheifele, Chychrun for Draisaitl, Domi
Trade 3: Huberdeau for Ty Smith, Soderstrom, Zary, Tomasino
Let’s add that all up:
Out from Rangers
In For Rangers:
Losing McDavid and Chychrun was very tough as both are great players and only going to get better. But the high-end talent coming back in Draisaitl, Meier, and Domi is reasonable compensation especially when you consider the 5 players with high upside (lowest potential is Ty Smith with 87 but he is having a solid NHL rookie season).
All told, after these deals and several others, the Rangers are absolutely stacked with youth and can choose to develop it all or move some for proven NHL talent if their fortunes improve next season.
Here is a full look at the prospect pipeline. This is for created players and excludes high-end prospects like recently acquired Dylan Holloway. Each player is listed with PO in brackets
• Alexander Holtz - RW (94)
• Philip Broberg - D (93)
• Vitaly Kravtsov - RW (91)
• Philip Tomasino – C/LW (89)
• Dawson Mercer – C (89)
• Connor Zary – C (89)
• Mavrik Bourque – C (88)
• Noah Dobson – D (88)
• Victor Soderstrom – D (88)
• Tobias Bjornfot – D (88)
• Connor Ingram – G (88)
• Ty Smith – D (87)
• Kristian Vesalainen – LW/RW (84)
This is a very impressive group including 3 centers, 3 wingers, 5 defensemen, and 1 goalie. It also excludes players with significant NHL time with high PO like Filip Zadina (93), Nico Hischer (93), Adam Boqvist (93), Mikhail Sergachev (91), Timo Meier (85), Filip Hronek (81), and of course Leon Draisaitl (92).
Obviously there is a lot of projection in this group. How the Rangers develop them will be critical to their future. The team is obviously praying for some quality rerates and a little better sim luck next year to improve the fortune of the Rangers in the near term.
With that said, it is sometimes fun to project what the roster might look like 5 years out. This projection will obviously never happen as some players will not develop and future trades and drafts can supplant them in the depth chart. We are also going to assume that some of the young forwards will be shifted to the wing from center.
Line 1: Meier / Draisaitl / Holtz
Line 2: Zadina / Hischer / Kravtsov
Line 3: Domi / Zary / Tomasino
Line 4: Kreider / Mercer / Bourque
Extras: Drouin, Vesalainen, Sharangovich (re-rate candidate).
This is a very deep group and there isn’t really room for everyone if everyone develops well but that likely won’t happen. Kreider is on the 4th line as he will be 34 but he might age well as an elite skating big man. Domi and Drouin will be 31 so likely still solid contributors while Hischer will only be 27, Zadina, 26, Meier 29, and Draisaitl 30.
Looking at the D it is even more of a log jam.
Pairing 1: Sergachev / Hronek
Pairing 2: Boqvist / Dobson
Pairing 3: Broberg / Doughty
Extras: Soderstrom, Smith, Bjornfot, Fleury
This is assuming Doughty sticks around for veteran leadership at 35. However the quality of the players behind him could make him expendable even if a few of them don’t pan out. Sergachev will only be 27 and Hronek 28 so there is a ton of upside on the backend.
In goal let’s assume Ingram will be the number 1 and Varlamov the backup but goalie prospects are fickle and there could very well be someone manning the pipes in New York 5 years out.
Despite a very frustrating season in New York, the Rangers are optimistic for the future with the deals they have made and the quality of the youth they have acquired. Rangers management is clearly hoping for a quick turnaround with better chemistry, sim luck, and improving young players including those already on the roster.
However, even if things take a little longer the future does appear to be bright.