There isn’t really a set number of phases for a rebuild. But, for the New York Rangers, the third phase (or step) has officially begun.
The New York Rangers rebuild has been well documented over the last few months. All of the “easy” work has been done: trades, draft lottery, and coaching changes. Now comes the part where Jeff Gorton will earn his paycheck.
This third phase of the rebuild consists of three areas; the draft, free agency, and trades. That is where the new crop of Ranger players will come from over the next few months. It’s where Gorton has to be at his best.
For the Rangers to find any success in the 2018-19 season this phase is going to be critical. The impact will determine the fate of the organization in the present, and the future.
The draft is where the Rangers are expected to be the busiest this offseason. Coming into it, they have 10 picks including seven in the first three rounds. What they do with these picks will be the deciding factor of how successful this offseason is.
Whether or not they decide to keep all 10 picks, more on that later, is yet to be seen. But, let’s say that Gorton decides it’s in the best interest of the team to hold on to them. The Rangers will come out with their best draft in a decade. The crop of young talent that will be added to the roster will pay dividends for the success of the rebuild.
In one of NHL.com’s early mock drafts, The Rangers have been linked to the likes of right winger Serron Noel, center Barrett Hayton, and defenseman Adam Boqvist with the ninth overall pick. Obviously, it is hard to make a mock draft accurately, but should the Rangers come out with one of the three players above they will be in good shape.
The team also has picks number 26, 28, 39, 48, 70, and 88 to work within the first three rounds. All solid numbers that will bring in more young talent to help establish this current core of young players that include Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, and Neal Pionk.
The draft, without a doubt, will be the most important part of the phase for the Blueshirts.
The Trade Market
Gorton did a great job on the trade market in the regular season moving the likes of Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Michael Grabner. But now the trade market isn’t going to be as predictable.
The Rangers have draft picks that they can now move and bring in more talent. They can combine those picks with either a Ryan Spooner or Vladislav Namestnikov to bring in a bigger package. A trade most likely would involve either Spooner or Namestnikov along with the 26th or 28th overall pick.
Other options can present themselves throughout the offseason for the Blueshirts. An offer that involves Mats Zuccarello could present itself and blow Gorton away. Moving on from Zuccarello would be extremely hard to do, but if the opportunity presents itself to improve the team, it shouldn’t be ignored. Could a team make an offer for Kevin Shattenkirk? Maybe, but the Rangers have yet to fully see what Shattenkirk can do on Broadway.
Gorton could also be aggressive in the trade market when it comes to adding players. Could he persuade the Ottawa Senators to ship them star defenseman Erik Karlsson? Or could he call the Edmonton Oilers and make a deal for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Probably not, but nothing is impossible when it comes to making trades.
The trade market will be an interesting market to explore, one where Gorton should be extremely busy.
The Free Agent Market
The team has to decide what they are going to do with restricted free agents Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, Spooner, Jimmy Vesey, and Namestnikov. Once that is accomplished, their approach to the free agent market will become evident.
When you look at the free agent market, the one name that jumps out at you is John Tavares. Now that is a pipe dream for the Rangers, one that can be made into a reality, but fans shouldn’t set their sights too high. Should Tavares decide to come on Broadway, the landscape of the rebuild will completely change.
Realistically speaking, the Rangers will be in on guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and the second tier market. This is where the team can look to finally replace Nash and Grabner with a quality veteran player.
Gorton will also have to make a decision whether or not he wants to add a veteran goaltender. If not, they will be tasking Alexandar Georgiev with that job. Georgiev made a nice impression right away, but there is something to be said about experience at the backup position.
Free agency might not have the same impact that the draft and the trade market will present the Rangers. But, if Gorton makes the smart hockey move, and not the big put fans in the seats move, the Rangers will have a pretty successful offseason.
The third phase of this Rangers rebuild is upon us. There are so many questions that will have answers soon enough. Now we just sit and wait.