The Rangers Position
With the NHL trade deadline behind us, it’s time to analyze how the New York Rangers, went about their business. The Rangers are in a weird phase right now, where they are not a playoff team but too good to be a lottery team. Jeff Gorton, has pulled off arguably a top ten rebuild of all time. Gorton has constructed a team of grinders like Colin Blackwell, snipers like Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, and a super-star forward in Artemi Panarin. Gorton made a young defense core of Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, and Jacob Trouba. Rookies Vitali Krastrov, Alexis Lafriniere, and K’Andre Miller, are also names to keep in mind. The question that can be raised is, how did Gorton handle his trade deadline?
The Rangers Problems
The Rangers made no moves at the deadline this year. In years past the Rangers were either buyers or sellers at the trade deadline in years past, but not in 2021. As good as our future may look, the hard truth is that, the Rangers have more than one problem on their hands.
Earlier mentioned Mika Zibanejad, is one of the Rangers biggest question marks. Zibanejad is the Blushirts best center but, is he enough? By no means is Zibanejad a problem, but when you look at Stanley Cup winning teams top centers, you have to ask yourself, can Mika compete with them.
Depth? The Rangers depth in their lineup in very questionable. You have a guy like Colin Blackwell, playing on the second line, that does not scream, “Stanley Cup Contenders”. The Rangers whole fourth line is not, a playoff line. Defense is really the only place where we are set, on he back end we have a nice mix of youth, Norris caliber Adam Fox, respected veteran player Jacob Trouba, and beloved teammate Brendan Smith.
The last big problem is the salary cap. Rangers fans and management should be concerned about the future cap. Gary Bettman had said a while back “As part of that, the salary cap is basically going to be flat until we recover the overpayments through the escrow that we’ve built up both in the return to play from last season, which obviously had to be concluded under different circumstances, and this season we’re obviously… there’s a major escrow building up because of the fact that there’s no attendance,” Bettman said. Bettman also said “So I think everybody is focusing on a flat cap or a near-flat cap for the immediate future,” The Rangers have a few terrible contracts and many dead cap figures from buyouts so, it will really hurt them in the future.
What Can The Rangers Do?
This upcoming offseason the Rangers have many options that we will talk about now. Brendan Smith who carries a cap hit of 2.35 million will come off the books this year. Smith is a player the Rangers will want to bring back to keep a good locker room presence. Anthony DeAngelo, who is banned from the team carries a cap hit of 4.800.000 with one year left, so the Rangers will look to move that for space for their rookies, and to possibly make a big splash.
Who should the Rangers go after? A player the comes to mind is one of the most consistently good centers is Sam Reinhart. Reinhart has put up 40+ points in all of his 6 NHL seasons but, he is at best Mika Zibanejad, but still better than Ryan Strome. Signing Reinhart, would give us two fringe 1st line centers and in a way leave us not at our best.
Another player that comes to mind is fellow pending RFA Elias Pettersson. The Vancouver Canucks, are in complete cap hell, also having to sign pending RFA Quinn Hughes. The Rangers could offer-sheet Pettersson a contract that Vancouver could not match, giving their current cap situation.
A missed chance the Rangers had was to take on contracts with picks at the deadline. The Rangers had 10.8 million in cap space and did not do anything, A draft pick with a bad cap hit for this season would have given the Rangers more prospects and possibly a late round steal.
Their are not many other NHL centers that fit the Rangers timeline. Whatever happens, the Rangers need to figure things out before they waste their youth and in todays NHL you need to win with players on ELC’s or bridge deals.