The New York Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild on the fly, which is why general manager Jeff Gorton needs to look at the success of another New York general manager to get the job done correctly.
This year needs to be a different year for Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers, who have gone another season without hoisting the Stanley Cup. In order to get there, they should take a page out of New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s playbook.
After four seasons of not making the playoffs, Cashman, in 2016, realized that his team was a fringe playoff contender with aging veterans. Instead of just keeping the status quo and adding unnecessary pieces, Cashman made major deals that focused on bettering the organization’s long-term future, not just the short-term present.
The trades of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova and Carlos Beltran all had one thing in common: Getting younger. Adding prospects to the pipeline. They were successful at that and for the first time, the thought was that they were rebuilding, but instead they came to within one game of the World Series a year later.
Now the question is how can Gorton pull something like this off when the Yankees and Rangers are in different places? The answer is quite simple: He has no choice, considering the where this Ranger team looks like they are heading the next couple of years.
So where would Gorton start if he were to do something like this? How about calling the Edmonton Oilers and see if he could convince them to take on Marc Staal in return for a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Nugent-Hopkins could serve as the team’s second line center and is still relatively young at just 24 years old. It would take a little more than Staal to complete this deal, but it’s the type of deal that Gorton should keep an eye on.
Aside from dumping an aging veteran like Staal for a young player who might be overstaying his welcome, Gorton also should move in the direction of trading his pending unrestricted free agents in Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, and Nick Holden. Now it has already been reported that the Rangers are interested in extending Nash, so if this is out of the question where does Gorton turn?
The Rangers would get a big return in a deal for Grabner, who has played some of his best hockey over the last two seasons with the Blueshirts. Contenders that are in dire need of speed, penalty killing and goal scoring would most definitely be willing to offer at least a second-round, if not a first-round draft pick for the speedy Grabner.
After Gorton makes these deals is where he, like Cashman, has to hope his scouts and player development staff are up to the task and give some of their young players a chance. Should the Blueshirts move on from a Grabner, maybe they could give young Vinni Lettieri a chance to play full time and really see what he can do?
If not Lettieri then the team could call up prospect Ryan Gropp, who they drafted with the draft pick acquired in the Carl Hagelin trade three summers ago. Gropp hasn’t turned out to be a major prospect, but his numbers in Hartford the past few seasons have been serviceable and are intriguing enough to give him a chance. Another prospect that the Rangers could give an opportunity to showcase his skill is Filip Chytil, who they sent to Hartford instead of Juniors with the hope of him returning this season.
These are all moves that Gorton could make in-season should the Rangers play start to dip towards the trade deadline. When the season comes to an end is where he could address the future of a Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, or even Henrik Lundqvist. These names would most likely bring in a bigger return but Gorton might feel inclined to keep them as did Cashman with Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner.
Now the Rangers are in a different position than the Yankees were when Cashman made the big trades in 2016, but Gorton shouldn’t let that come in the way. The Eastern Conference has more parity than it ever has had before and the Rangers currently sit just barely inside the playoff picture.
This all starts with moving on from veterans who might be starting to hold your team back, Cashman realized it in 2016 and it’s time that Gorton realizes it for the Rangers in 2018.