NEW YORK, NY – In 2018 the New York Rangers sent “the letter” to their fan-base announcing their intention to rebuild. Not counting the play-in destruction by the Hurricanes in the wacky bubble year 2020, they are back in, after missing out on only four post seasons. I think most of us would’ve signed up for that in a blink. That is a rebuild done right. Let’s look at the key moves that got us here and give credit where it’s due.
The Rick Nash Haul
They Rangers got a better haul for Nash than they did for Captain Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers ended up getting stalwart blueliner Ryan Lindgren, the first round pick they would include in a package to trade up to get defenseman K’Andre Miller, and a player (Ryan Spooner) who was flipped for Ryan Strome. So two of the starting six defensemen and number two center for a guy who barely played for Boston after the trade.
The Adam Fox Heist
The Rangers gave up a second round pick and a conditional third (which ended up being another second) for the future Norris Trophy (best defenseman) winner. Fox wanted to be in New York, but still, this was an absolute robbery.
The Trade for Troubs
The Rangers gave up a first round pick and Neal Pionk for the big defenseman. I wasn’t sure about this trade after Trouba played hardball and forced the leverage-less Rangers into giving him a huge deal. It seemed like the Rangers were jumping back into the bad contract pool after finally get out from under a few. But Trouba has had a monster year with crushing hits, leadership, and some offense.
Artemi Panarin, the Bread Man, picked the Rangers and signed a seven year deal. Panarin is magic with the puck, possessing uncanny vision to find open men and trailers jumping in to the play. Artemi could get to 100 points with a strong finish. Signing Bread started the turn of the ship turning from Rebuildsville toward Contentiontown, USA.
Second Ball for Kaapo
Fortune favored the blue as the ping pong ball fell to the Rangers for the second pick. Jack Hughes went first and he’s gonna be a star. But Kakko had been coming along steadily until a broken wrist set him back. He’s back in the lineup now.
The Rangers came mighty close to dealing Chris Kreider away at the deadline, and I thought that was probably the wisest course of action. After locking in long contracts with Trouba and Panarin, it didn’t seem like a good idea to give Kreider a long contract too, when he was likely to pull in a nice haul in return. And hey, the guy had never even scored 30 goals. Well, they brought him back and he’s banged in 49 so far this season. I’m happy to be wrong on that one.
This time the top ball landed on blue and the Rangers took Alexis Lafrenière. Laffy made big strides this year, but he seems destined to third line purgatory for the foreseeable future, as he is most comfortable on the side manned by Panarin and Kreider.
Baby Troubs on Board
Jeff Gorton and John Davidson were visibly pumped when they were able to trade up and get Braden Schneider. Lately, we’ve been seeing why. Schneider has looked poised from shift one but has started to pick up his physical game of late, earning the nickname “Baby Trouba.” Yegor Sharangovich of the Devils had the misfortune of challenging Schneider to a fight last week. It did not work out well for him.
Getting Stronger (Rocky montage)
The mandate was to get tougher to play against and new GM Chris Drury followed orders by bringing in Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, Sammy Blais and other bottom six grinders. It has paid off and the team doesn’t hesitate to get their mitts dirty when someone takes a run at one of their teammates.
Gerald Gallant was the right guy at the right time. He’ll be looking to catch lightning in a bottle and make a magical run like he did with the Golden Knights.
Trade Deadline Tuning
Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp have fit in well on the top two lines, allowing players like Dryden Hunt to slide down to their proper roles on the bottom six. Tyler Motte has added energy and speed on the fourth line and Justin Braun provides a little depth on D. These were masterful moves by Drury that have solidified the lineup and have invigorated this team.
The Rangers saw something in 19-year old Igor Shesterkin and made him a 4th round pick in 2014. After dominating the KHL, Shersterkin made his way to New York and took his place as the rightful heir to King Henrik the Great. Igor carried the Rangers early in the season until the team found it’s footing. He is a near lock to get the Vezina (top goalie) and had been getting buzz for the Hart (MVP) until he hit a slight dip around the same time that Auston Matthews started scoring goals in bushels. Still, a phenomenal season for Igor.
It’s still hard to believe the Rangers got the up-and-coming Zibanejad (and a second round pick somehow!) for Derick Brassard in 2016. Brassard was a decent player but never had a 40 point season or cracked 18 goals after leaving the Rangers. Mika is a fantastic two way center headed for his first 80 point season.
Jeff & John
Jeff Gorton and John Davidson deserve a ton of credit as they made most of the above moves. It’s a shame they were unceremoniously let go after last season. They deserved better.
Chris Drury had two goals when he took over – get tougher and make the playoffs. Check and check. It sure seems like he could’ve gotten more for Pavel Buchnevich, but after resigning Kreider and drafting Kaapo and Lafrenière, they just couldn’t pay another wing with cap room needed for Fox and Mika. Drury navigated the trade deadline like a seasoned pro. He brought on guys that fit on and off the ice, filling key holes without giving up a top prospect or a first round pick (unless they make it to the conference finals).
Unpopular opinion coming, but you have to give credit where it’s due. It seemed like Dolan was having the typical entitled rich owner tantrum when he fired Davidson and Gorton because the team was soft. But hey, they got tougher and look at where there are now. Even the worst clown at the carnival makes a decent balloon animal every now and then I guess.
Right now, the Canes have 102 points and the Rangers have 100 with nine games to play. The Rangers beat the Canes in their last meeting but they were thoroughly outplayed. Alexandar Georgiev had the game of his life. The Canes also crushed the Rangers in the bubble play-in series. But now the Rangers are trending up and the Canes have sputtered a bit. With only two points separating them and two head-to-head matchups left, the Rangers want to let them know that this is a different group. It should be fun, especially with so many ex-Rangers (Fast, Skjei, DeAngelo, Smith) on the Canes.
First Round Opponent
The consensus seems to be for the Rangers to stay where they are in the standings so they play the Penguins, a team they’ve handled three straight times. But the Rangers should just go
balls pucks out and let the teams fall where they may. There is no team in the east who should scare them. Let the other teams fear the Rangers.
We’re back. Kudos on a rebuild done right.
That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.