John Tavares
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Alright New York Rangers fans, what’s it going to be: rebuild or chase high-priced free agents again?

Rumors, suggestions, gossip and speculation. Fans of any sport can get so tied into these things and everyone has an opinion on what is right for their team. Sure, it’s part of being a fan and it’s most certainly your right that cannot be taken away from you.

So as our beloved New York Rangers hike down this uncharted path of uncertainty for the first time in years it feels like, we have to ask ourselves this one question: Will they truly go for the rebuild, or try and accelerate the rebuild by adding some big fish from the pond?

The two biggest names floating around these days are John Tavares and Erik Karlsson. On paper, they make sense. The lack of a true number one center or number one defenseman on the roster makes the fits perfect.

Tavares is the type of player the Rangers have been lacking for years. They have never had someone who was talented enough to carry “loads.” Tavares can do that. He’s turned Kyle Okposo into a 60-point player, Matt Moulson into a 30-goal scorer, and Josh Bailey into an All-Star. He does this while also being an incredible leader, defensively responsible player, and clutch goal-scorer.

Aside from it being super sweet to take a rival’s franchise player, does it make sense to crowd the center depth chart? Does it make sense to delay the arrivals of Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson? Or make them switch positions?

Of course, the Islanders will not let Tavares skate away completely free. If they sense a long-term deal cannot be reached, they will look to trade him before free agency begins. If they even consider trading him to their biggest rivals, they’ll charge the Rangers multiple arms and legs.

So for as sweet as it’d be to acquire John Tavares, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to continue to mortgage the Rangers future like they have done in the past to make it happen.

Tavares would be different than any other player they’ve ever acquired but it seems more like a pipe dream. Come draft day, if Tavares hasn’t signed and negotiations with the Isles are going south, Jeff Gorton can certainly try.

The same goes for Erik Karlsson, a different player than the Rangers would have ever acquired and something the Rangers haven’t had since the days of  Brian Leetch.

Karlsson has posted incredible numbers from the blue line, with five seasons over 60 points and soon to make it six. He creates offense for others with incredible breakout passes and superhuman vision.


But like Tavares, Karlsson will not come cheap. It is rumored that the Ottawa Senators have already begun to shop Karlsson.

It’s pretty obvious the Senators won’t let him reach free agency and will most definitely attempt to acquire pieces in exchange for his rights. Again, is it a wise move to send away what the Rangers have done over recent months and mortgage their future?

And much like Kevin Shattenkirk, Karlsson comes with his own issues and liabilities in the defensive zone.

It most certainly won’t hurt Jeff Gorton to make a call come draft day but at this point, acquiring Karlsson again seems like a pipe dream.

Although the Rangers may be on the outside of the top five in terms of 2018 draft order, there is most definitely talent to work with. The Rangers, although finding some success in terms of wins, are slated to be in the top 10 with their pick. With the two picks acquired, they will be on the tail end, in the high 20s or 30s.

We all know the Rangers have a great scouting staff and are more than capable of finding gems in the late first round, not even to mention the three picks they have in the second and the third round.

For those who believe they can package their picks to get into the top five, only one team in the salary cap era has traded back from five-to-nine: The Isles. It was a move which completely benefited them as they got Josh Bailey after Luke Schenn, Nikita Filatov, Colin Wilson, and Mikkel Boedker were selected.

So as some will say, let’s trust the process and finish the rebuild. No reason to abandon ship. Unless of course there is a gift to be had.

Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.