As mentioned previously, the New York Rangers need to stick to their plan of rebuilding and trade Kevin Hayes. By trading him, the Blueshirts could fill more pressing holes in their lineup, such as the defense.
The 2018 offseason is a very interesting time for the New York Rangers. It is in this offseason that they will be looking for a new coach, drafting three players in the first round, and looking to fill certain holes in their permeable defense.
The latter is an interesting thought to analyze. The Rangers, a team that has been very open about their plans to rebuild, have a few players on the current roster that could be traded at the draft this year.
One of the more interesting options is center Kevin Hayes, who will be 26 in May.
This season, Hayes had a career high in goals, 25, despite being relegated to a shutdown role. His oZS% (offensive zone starts) was fairly low, at 42.7, whereas his dZS% (defensive zone starts) was high, at 57.3. These lopsided numbers validate the notion that Hayes was used, almost solely, as a shutdown center.
Now, I will not continue to bore you with mind-numbingly mundane statistics pertaining to Hayes’ ability to drive possession and to see the ice. Most fans, aside from the “Hayes is lazy” crowd, understand the tremendous skill of the 6-foot-5 center.
What I can tell you is this: the Rangers have a plethora of young centers vying for a roster spot this upcoming season. The top-nine centers, or the three spot that Hayes could slot into, are occupied.
Now, while my desire for Zibanejad as the top center is warranted, the next two center spots can be easily disputed. Questions of deploying an 18-year-old in the top-six, and placing another teenager on the third line, can draw a bit of concern. “They aren’t mentally prepared to handle such important roles!” “They’ll make too many mistakes!” “They are ready to play at this level!”
Listen, of course they aren’t completely ready. But gone are the days of a young player making a mistake and immediately being benched or thrown on the fourth line. This is a rebuilding year, let the kids have major roles so they can develop properly.
And there is also this: if the deployment of Chytil and Andersson as top-nine centers is a disaster (which I doubt it will be), the Rangers, who will be looking to sign Vladislav Namestnikov and Ryan Spooner in the offseason, could easily just slot them into the center positions.
Where would Hayes fit into this equation? He is by no means a fourth line center; he is too valuable, and the other three spots are filled.
Chytil’s potential clearly supersedes that of Hayes. That much is evident. So then, the question becomes Hayes vs. Andersson.
Why do we have to choose? Hayes will likely be looking for something similar to a four-year deal. With Zibanejad and Chytil as locks to be playing center for the Rangers in the future, what is Andersson supposed to do if Hayes were to sign this deal? Play four more years in the AHL? I think not.
Another proposition to keep both would be the claim “let’s just let Andersson develop on the fourth line.”
Yes, that would be good for a season, allowing Andersson to get his feet wet as an NHL center … but Hayes is looking for a multi-year deal. Andersson is too good for a fourth line role and should be developed to be a top-nine center.
The hole at the fourth line center could be easily addressed via free agency. While having Andersson as a fourth line center would be incredible, it is counterintuitive to keep both with more glaring needs up and down the roster.
Now, Andersson, at 19, clearly fits into the youth movement taking place in MSG. He has leadership qualities, which are lacking in Hayes and plays a similar game to Hayes, despite having a much smaller frame.
Hayes has the better vision and passing ability. Additionally, his current trade value is much higher than that of Andersson.
Why not trade Hayes for a more pressing need? A top-pairing defender would be nice. Players such as Dougie Hamilton and Jacob Trouba have been mentioned. If Hayes is grouped with a late first-rounder or an early second-rounder, this could get done.
Trading Hayes would benefit the organization tremendously. While this is no knock on him, the future of the team would be brighter if Hayes was traded, assets were acquired, and Andersson could play a top-nine role.
Only time will tell. There is no way anyone can really tell what the Rangers will do on draft day. Let us hope it is for the better of the team.