The New York Rangers have remained quiet through the first week of free agency. Is this a smart move or one that will doom the team?
New York Rangers’ fans have experienced a wide range of emotions following Jeff Gorton’s moves (or lack thereof) through the first week of free agency.
Some fans are cautiously optimistic with Gorton’s signings, while others are sprinting to find the nearest ledge.
So where exactly do the New York Rangers stand right now? Is the team better off following these moves or headed towards a rebirth of the dark ages that this fan base experienced from 1998-2004?
While no one will truly know the answer to these questions until the 2016-17 season kicks off, we can at least make a hypothesis.
By now you are most likely familiar with the free agent signings that Gorton made a week ago:
Michael Grabner (RW): 2 years, 1.65M
Nathan Gerbe (C): 1 year, 600K
Adam Clendening(D): 2 years, 600K/300K
Michael Paliotta (D): 1 year (two-way deal), 600K/70K
In short, these signings add some speed and depth to a Rangers’ roster that looked fatigued at many points last season.
The Rangers have also begun to sign some of their RFA’s.
Rangers also announce they’ve agreed to terms with F Nicklas Jensen, also an RFA. Earlier, announced deal with RFA D Mat Bodie.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) July 5, 2016
While many look at both of these as depth signings, I believe that Jensen has the potential to be a productive forward for the Blueshirts, rather than just an AHL call-up.
“Changes to the core” was a common theme following the failure that was the New York Rangers’ 2015-16 season.
“I think we are at the stage now where we need to look at some changes. Any NHL team today, status quo is not possible and is not what you need, you need to keep changing pieces and bringing in different players to add different dynamics to the group. This group, the core guys have been together for a while, it is certainly time now to look at what we can do to improve and I think that is what we will do moving forward.”
AV has said all of the right things, but talk is cheap if it isn’t backed up by the proper action.
Rick Nash didn’t produce on the score sheet, Marc Staal couldn’t defend in front of the net, and Dan Girardi couldn’t, well, do much of anything.
So when Vigneault discussed “changes to the core”, many expected Jeff Gorton to start with these offenders.
But rather than asking if Gorton should move these players, perhaps we should consider the real question which should be whether or not Gorton can move these players.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote that the Rangers are “extremely reluctant to trade Derek Stepan; won’t trade Ryan McDonagh; cannot get anything even remotely resembling equal value for Rick Nash; and have not been shopping Chris Kreider.”
Fans may have to face the reality that Gorton has probably tried to make changes to the Rangers’ core, but has not been able to.
It seems as though hockey clubs around the NHL wouldn’t be baited into these bad contracts.
Now does this necessarily mean that the Rangers will be thrown into the abyss next season?
Not so fast.
While Girardi was certainly not reliable last season, it’s important to remember that he was nursing a cracked knee cap, which should not be taken lightly.
If Girardi is healthy come October, he could at least be a serviceable defenseman.
The acquisition of Nick Holden won’t solve all of the Rangers’ defensive problems, but he will add some depth and security on the blue line.
While Rick Nash clearly didn’t meet his expectations with 36 points (15 goals/21 assists) through 60 games, his totals were not far off from where they have been throughout his career as a Ranger.
If the alternative option is dumping Nash for sub-players or distant picks, I would opt to keep him for his consistent and strong two-way play.
Yes, you’re probably tired of hearing it, but Nash is effective at both ends of the rink, which is something that can’t be overlooked.
If you’re worried about his low goal totals, you can reference the production of former Rangers, Marian Gaborik.
Upon his arrival to New York, Gaborik was expected to be a 40+ goal scorer. Like Nash, Gaborik did meet these expectations, but also struggled with injuries and production at times.
Gaborik’s production during the 2010-11 season is very similar to Nash’s production in recent years. Like Gaborik, there is no reason to believe that Nash isn’t capable of reaching the 40 goal mark again.
At the heart of this argument is the heart of the organization, Henrik Lundqvist. I’ll always say that as long as the Rangers have Hank in their corner, they have a chance to win.
In the end, Gorton has made moves that will not only benefit the Rangers next season, but also moving forward.
The New York Rangers may not be contenders for the Stanley Cup next season, but fans should rest easy knowing that Gorton is not sending the Rangers back to the dark ages.