The New York Rangers rebuild has taken different directions this summer, but continues to show that it won’t happen overnight.
Every New York Rangers fan wants their team to be the best—to win that elusive Stanley Cup and stand as the best team in the NHL for the first time since 1994. But the reality is that they aren’t the best, and years away from snagging that designation.
Reality is that the team is in the midst of a rebuild, a word that fans haven’t heard on Broadway during the Henrik Lundqvist era. Something that general manager Jeff Gorton decided to let his fan base know straight up in a Feb. 8 letter. A letter that appeared to be accepted with open arms, until the summer.
The overall consensus amongst some Ranger fans was that the team’s issues could be fixed easily. Sign former Islander John Tavares and former Devil Ilya Kovalchuk, on top of adding a top-four defenseman. Problems fixed, the Rangers will be back in the playoffs. But instead, Gorton showed patience, something that the fan base needs to accept like they did back in February.
That patience from Gorton netted the Rangers three picks in the first round where he selected players who appear to have plenty of potential a few years down the road. None of the selections Gorton made look to make an impact on the NHL level in 2018-19, something that had fans go crazy.
While going crazy at drafts is understandable, it wasn’t like the Rangers had the number one overall pick and passed on Rasmus Dhalin. They had the ninth overall pick and selected a player in Vitali Kravtsov. A pick that has gotten solid reviews around the hockey world.
Fast forward to the start of free agency. It became pretty obvious that the Rangers were not going to players for some of the top available free agents. This is where the idea of a rebuild taking time needs to be brought up.
The Blueshirts only signed one player, Fredrik Claesson, a low risk/high reward type of player. What ensued after that was how come the Rangers didn’t make more moves? Why haven’t they addressed the teams issues for next year?
If Gorton had any intentions on this being a quick easy fix, he would have re-signed Michael Grabner at the $3.35 million AAV he got from Arizona. Gorton clearly did not like the sound of that. Instead, he gave Vladislav Namestnikov a two-year contract extension at $4 million per year.
Going with Namestnikov over a guy like Grabner adds to the idea of a rebuild taking time. Yes, the 25-year-old struggled in his first action on the Garden ice, but Gorton and newly hired David Quinn hope that was just part of his transition. That the patience and work they will put in with Namestnikov will pay off at the end of his deal.
The Rangers are clearly not going to be designed to match up well with the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and the other powerhouses of the NHL.
Instead, the Blueshirts will be one of the teams fighting for the best odds for the number one pick. They will be sticking to the idea of being patient, the idea of doing this the right way. Not overspending in free agency, and developing their own young superstars, their own Connor McDavid’s and Auston Matthews of the league.
In order to get a McDavid and a Matthews requires a significant amount of patience. It requires some losing, maybe even a significant amount of losing. But once you are able to get one of those players, the likes of Tavares, Kovalchuk, and other top players in the league will be lining up at your doorstep.
The Rangers have accepted the concept of waiting, now it’s time for the fan base to get on board.