The trade deadline has come and gone, and the New York Rangers now find themselves in a better position for future success.
Nobody ever said rebuilding is easy. Nobody ever uttered the same words as it relates to the New York Rangers.
They did their best to warn fans, sending a letter out just over a year ago just prior to executing many heartbreaking trades. These trades saw homegrown talent on the move in Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, along with veterans in Rick Nash and Michael Grabner fetching picks and prospects to help usher in the next wave of success.
While the letter itself was a warning of what was to happen in 2017-18, it also served as a warning for what was to happen a year later. They were preparing to move fan favorite Mats Zuccarello along with another homegrown talent in Kevin Hayes all for assets which will help the team in the next five years.
What the Rangers were telling us is how they did not envision Hayes or Zuccarello as a part of the future at the price tag they were asking for in contract negotiations. They were showing us how they are committed to building this team the right way, and not settling for a quick fix through free agency.
Yes, the trades continued to break the hearts of Rangers fans, who now have only four players remaining from the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Final run. But what you have to look at in each and every deal is how the Rangers are setting themselves up for success in the long run. Teams who are enjoying success in the NHL were all built through the draft while secondarily adding necessary pieces as needed.
Starting with the Zuccarello trade, it was without a doubt a tough pill to swallow even though everyone knew it was coming. It just never really felt real until the Rangers tweeted out the deal was official. New York got back a second and third-round draft pick which both have the potential to become first-round picks if the conditions established are met. While a bit underwhelming at first, this was the best package New York was going to receive for No. 36.
Even if the picks do not turn out to become first rounders, they will eventually become players who will have an impact on the Rangers roster at some point in the next five years. Yes, draft picks are usually hit or miss, especially considering the track record this franchise has when drafting, but over the last couple of years, there is nothing that leads you to believe they will not take the best player on the board.
Now enter Kevin Hayes.
The Hayes deal brought New York a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-rounder, and a prospect in Brendan Lemieux. Just like the other trades, the draft pick was an essential part of the deal but so was acquiring a young controllable player in Lemieux.
While his numbers aren’t flashy, 11 points in 44 games, he brings the Rangers something they never really had in the last few years. He is said to be a hard-nosed player who can contribute offensively at times.
Consider this for a moment: Lemieux only averaged 10.7 shifts and 7:25 in ice time in his time on a stacked Winnipeg Jets team. To be able to score nine goals in that span is impressive and he should be able to produce more considering he will receive more ice time with the Blueshirts.
The Rangers now have seven draft picks in the first four rounds. They also could have four of those picks become first rounders should the conditions of the Dallas Stars’ and Tampa Bay Lightning’s be met.
Just imagine all of the possibilities having a surplus of picks present for general manager Jeff Gorton. He can move one or two of these picks for NHL ready talent in a trade or keep all of the picks and develop players through the Rangers system.
While there have been arguments made about how the Rangers draft picks have been nothing special in the past, times are changing.
Filip Chytil looks to be a promising young player with a boatload of skill while Lias Andersson is developing a bit slower but looks to have the tools to make it in the NHL. The early returns from the 2018 draft look promising with Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist all showcasing impressive seasons. Not to mention the success Igor Shesterkin is having in the KHL for the last few years.
All of the success the last two drafts have produced should lead you to believe the Dylan McIlrath‘s of the Rangers farm system are few and far between. The 2019 NHL Entry Draft should produce a few more players with great skill and upside to contribute in the next great Ranger runs.
It’s fair to be upset with all the turnover the Rangers have gone through in the last two seasons. Only Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal have been with the Blueshirts for more than six years which makes it completely fair to be frustrated. But after you let the frustrations boil down and look at the where the team is now, there is no reason to believe they can’t turn things around in the next three to five years.
They employ a head coach in David Quinn who has done a great job reaching his younger players, and his team continues to buy into his message competing on a nightly basis. Look no further than how Tony DeAngelo and Pavel Buchnevich have responded to Quinn’s methods along with how the team never gave in Sunday against the Washington Capitals. If this was the 2017-18 squad, there is no doubt they would have folded after the fifth Washington goal.
The final months of the season are going to be about development, not about making the playoffs. All the proper pieces seem to be in place to make this team the best they can be in the future.
So I ask this, “Are you still in?”