The New York Rangers weren’t busy on the first day of free agency, and that was perfectly okay for the current rebuild.
Que the song from Frozen, “For the First Time In Forever.”
That’s what it felt like waking up on July 1 and finding out the New York Rangers were not going to be active players in the free agent market.
It really has felt like forever considering the team had either made significant trades or signed some of the big names in the month of July. Just look at some of the names they’ve acquired in the off-season: Rick Nash, Dan Boyle, Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey, Brad Richards, Scott Gomes, and Chris Drury are just the perfect examples of that.
Fast forward to July 1, 2018, and the Rangers went with a different mindset with the free agent market. Do nothing, or close to nothing. The team re-signed Vladislav Namestnikov and added Fredrik Claesson, but that was it.
When looking at the day, general manager Jeff Gorton did the right thing. He did the right thing for today and the right thing for the future. Isn’t that really what a rebuild is all about? Making the team better for both the present and the future, but placing an emphasis on the future.
Instead, Gorton could have gone after some of the bigger names on the market, like John Tavares, James Neal, James Van Riemsdyk, Michael Grabner and many others. It would have been the easy way out for Gorton. Acquire young talent at the deadline and patch the holes up with proven NHL talent in a final attempt to get Henrik Lundqvist a Stanley Cup.
But, instead, Gorton chose to stick to the plan that he started in February. A plan that appears to favor developing young talent instead of going after veterans for a quick fix. A plan similar to that of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs weren’t big spenders in free agency the last five years. They built their team through the draft and when the team was ready to add big names they did just that.
What it looks like the Rangers will be after the next few years is talent, like Toronto. The type of talent that has major potential to help this team in the long run. That’s what bringing back Namestnikov, and a young defenseman in Claesson does. Yes, they still have to prove themselves to the Garden crowd, but they have potential to become quality NHL players.
We all saw what a player like Namestnikov can do when surrounded by talent. Just look at the 123 points that he scored in Tampa. For Claesson, he had a really impressive postseason in 2016-17, and that translated in a successful year in 2017-18. Both players are low risk, high reward type of guys.
Now the offseason is far from being over, and there still more moves to be made prior to the start of 2018-19. But there were 120 signing on the first day of free agency, two by the Rangers. That has to be considered an overwhelming success for the Blueshirts.