NEW YORK, NY – They look at the standings and see only teams in front of them. The NY Rangers are in an unfamiliar position… as sellers approaching the trade deadline. A curious announcement yesterday from the team’s brass warned fans that a lot of familiar faces and fan favorites might not be on the team come 3pm on February 26th. They’ve already waived Brendan Smith after a disappointing season to date. Smith is making over $4 million a year. But he has not lived up to the hype. He’s made bad play after bad play all year and the brass finally had enough. Now the rest of the league has 24 hours to claim Smith and his $4.35 million cap hit before he’s shipped off to Hartford.
The start of the season was full of promise. The front office added Kevin Shattenkirk to the blue line. He and Brendan Smith were supposed to bring some stability to a defensive core that had been suspect for years under Alain Vigneault. But the play of Shattenkirk, Smith and Nick Holden dug Boomer’s Boys into a hole that they haven’t been able to climb out of. Shattenkirk is now on the shelf with a knee injury, Smith is on his way out and the team in in last place in the Metropolitan Division.
Holden was paired with Ryan McDonagh for most of the season and he managed to make one of the better defensemen in the league look average at best. McDonagh hasn’t been himself while playing with Holden. Big Mack only has two goals on the season. Now he could be headed for greener pastures as the trade deadline nears.
Rick Nash has already handed in his list of teams he would waive his no-trade clause to join. He could be traded along with Mats Zuccarello (right Nina Sandbech), McDonagh, and other core members of this Rangers vintage. Glen Sather and GM Jeff Gorton are moving the team towards a rebuild. The only name that seems to be safe is Henrik Lundqvist, who for now, will be finishing his career in Manhattan.
The rest of Hank’s career may be mired in a Rangers rebuild. It’s not a process the team is familiar with. They’ve been a team that always retools and never rebuilds for the better part of the last two decades. The last time they missed the playoffs was in 2010. Even then they missed out on the playoffs with a shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the penultimate game of the season.
This year it’s over… well before mid-April. They’re in last in the Metro but they’ve still got a lot of teams below them in the race for the draft lottery. With the impending trades, the Broadway Blues should be able to move ahead of a few of those teams and increase their chances in the lottery.
I didn’t think the Rangers would be in tank-mode any time soon. But here we are. There’s a decent free-agent class this year and a good draft pick could go a long way towards refilling the coffers. But Management may decide to play it slow and develop the young talent – like Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. And they could bring Russian netminder prospect Igor Shestyorkin into the fold to get the kid some NHL experience.
Time will tell. But for now, the tank is on.
Speaking of tanks, come back for our version of Frank The Tank, Junoir Blaber, tomorrow.