The Dylan McIlrath saga is dragging. Where it’s being dragged to remains to be seen.
The New York Rangers, after countless hours and at least three years worth of investments, seem ready to move on from McIlrath, the 2010 10th overall pick who will always be tied to the fact the Rangers didn’t take Vladimir Tarasenko.
In many ways Monday was supposed to be his perfect storm. Stapled to the press box but too valuable to put through waivers, McIlrath got the nod over the injured Dan Girardi because Kevin Klein was also injured. What seemed like a perfect chance for McIlrath to prove he belonged turned into McIlrath taking a bad penalty and not skating in the third period.
In other words, McIlrath was back to where he started: Watching hockey rather than playing it.
It’s clear Alain Vigneault has no care in the world to use his hulking defenseman any more than sporadically. It’s also clear he doesn’t mind sitting him in the press box for extended sessions. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s additionally clear that he’s not going to change his tone anytime soon.
The Rangers, by not giving McIlrath an opportunity to develop, aren’t just doing a disservice to the player, but also to themselves. They’ve tanked his trade value to the point where the only real options for McIlrath in a trade are 1) change of scenery moves, or 2) added as a throwaway to a package. Either way, the McIlrath who showed spurts of being a solid defenseman last year is not going to have an NHL future on Broadway.
So what’s the holdup? The Rangers don’t need eight defensemen even though it came in handy with both Girardi and Klein injured. Keeping eight of them only to let one rot on the bench permanently is a massive waste of an asset. McIlrath was never going to become Bobby Orr, but I think he was significantly better than most people ever gave him credit for — including his coach.
The Rangers have been scouting the Ducks kind of hard lately. The Ducks, who need cap space more than anything right now, are sitting on a literally gold mine of a defenseman they need to sign. Is there a deal to be made for Cam Fowler? Is there a deal to be made for Sami Vatanen?
I can’t imagine the Rangers are scouting the Ducks heavily for Hampus Lindholm since he’s, you know, not playing.
Let me be clear about something: The Rangers aren’t getting significant value back for McIlrath — especially with the way he’s been used. I think there’s a case to be made for a McIlrath - Fowler swap since it saves Anaheim a ton of money, but that’s the only thing I can see happening. And honestly, if that deal was of interest to both sides it probably would have been consummated already.
The Rangers need to make a decision, though. I understand holding onto McIlrath until everyone is healthy, but there’s no reason to keep him beyond that. With Kevin Klein already returning to game action, the Rangers might as well make their moves now and cut bait.
That doesn’t absolve the team from the disservice they’ve done to him. The media seems fine with the whole “well he’s 8th on AV’s list so why ask about it” (sound familiar?) but that doesn’t suddenly stop it from being an important talking point.
Regardless, McIlrath is only going to turn into a headache if this continues. He’s been far too gracious considering the short leash he’s been given, and if there wasn’t such a ridiculous backlash on publicly asking for a trade — especially for someone unproven -- then he would have been there already.
Still, after the past few weeks it might be time he privately ask for a move internally. The Rangers won’t waive him -- where he’d almost positively get picked up — but having him sit in the press box 90% of the season is just as good as losing him for nothing.
Right now McIlrath has the value of being an unknown. He looked good in spurts last year, has a 1st round pick pedigree and can be a hulking enforcer who some teams might value. The window to move him for any type of return is rapidly closing.
The window to play him? That seems to be sealed shut.