When I was 10 I took swimming lessons over the summer. My parents have always loved the beach, and while I knew how to swim, they wanted me to get better. (Possibly related: It was the summer and they wanted me out of the house.) So they signed me up for camp and made me take lessons. Did I mention the lessons were at seven in the morning? They were at seven in the morning.
The first thing the swimming instructor would always make us do was line up at the edge of the pool and jump in together. Why? Because the pool was outside and the water was colder than anything I could remember. So she would make us jump in right away to "get it over with."
Here's your chance to jump into the cold water as a New York Rangers fan and get it over with: The New York Rangers are going to try and contend this year, regardless of whether or not they're actually true contenders.
Here's what you should be ready for:
1) The Rangers keeping Keith Yandle at the trade deadline, making a Stanley Cup run with him and then either moving him at the draft for a minimal return or losing him to free agency for nothing
2) The Rangers making some moves to bolster their offense up front. The scope of this has yet to be determined -- I would have to assume the Rangers wouldn't touch the Brady Skjei, Pavel Buchnevich, Robin Kovacs and Aleksi Saarela's of the world, but you never know.
3) The Rangers have no intention of moving bad contracts (Tanner Glass, Dan Girardi or Marc Staal) now and will deal with the consequences over the summer.
This will cause a plethora of tremors that will ultimately impact the team in both the short and the long term. Whether or not the consequences will be worth it will depend on whether or not the Rangers win the Stanley Cup and just how many of their future chips they push into the middle of the table to get there if they don't.
And on some level I get it. Henrik Lundqvist isn't getting any younger. The Rangers -- despite massive struggles -- have the fourth most wins in hockey as of this writing. The expectations that have grown like a fungus since the 2014 run have become enormous weights on the shoulders of both the brass and the team. Lundqvist (admittedly) deserves better than blowing things up.
But on another level (and it's this level where most of my logic resides) running headfirst into the playoffs with no care about the future is just about the worst thing this team can do. They have flaws, serious ones, too, and there's a difference between thinking you can contend and thinking you should contend. The Rangers can contend, but if they truly believe they're an added piece or two away from being at the "should contend" level they're kidding themselves. Especially when the biggest problems -- and, really, the biggest landmines to end their season -- reside in comfortable positions on the team.
Despite the team's increased success -- without Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash, no less -- there are enough reasons to worry about running headlong into the fire ... again.
Will Keith Yandle's Value Force A Trade
Keith Yandle's name has been linked to multiple Western teams thus far. All indications are the Rangers won't move him at the deadline, but will other teams make offers that tests this theory?
My ideal move (assuming I have to go along with the win now mentality) would be something like this: A cheap depth move for a 3rdish round pick. The Rangers will most likely be without their 1st round pick this year (they can move it to next year, but if they make the playoffs they'll most likely relinquish it) and giving up their second round pick would ensure another year where they wait 75+ times to finally reach the draft board.
But depending on the player, I could be talked into a pick/prospect return. Unless the return is significant, Buchnevich, Kovacs, Saarela and Skjei have to be off the table. I'd rather not see Ryan Graves get moved and I think Adam Tambellini might have a career in front of him, too.
Saying all that, I will allow the reality that the Rangers can only get better by upgrading their roster without removing from their roster. Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg can't be moved and replaced with another depth add. The entire point of bringing in a depth add (especially if it's someone like Kris Versteeg) would be to plant them in the top-nine and push Fast down to the fourth line replacing Glass. That solidifies the forward group and that fourth line should help mitigate some of the issues that will inevitably come on defense.
What do I think will happen? I think the temptation of a move for Eric Staal will overpower the front office as they desperately try to pry this Cup window open (the wrong way). I have a feeling it will come at the expense of an Oscar Lindberg or Jesper Fast, along with some prospects and picks. I doubt the Rangers shift out another first round pick but all that does is force the pot to be sweetened by more prospects you don't want to part with.
Outside of the fear about touching an already barren cupboard, removing depth (say a Lindber, Fast, Dominc Moore or a Stalberg) just to replace them with a trade deadline piece misses the point. You want to bolster your depth, not replace it.
Dreams about the Rangers actually making moves for cap space now to prepare for the summer may as well die the same way your warmth flees your body as the cold pool water engulfed me as a kid at camp. The Rangers are going for this, like it or not, and they seem to be willing to live with whatever comes from it.
If it's a Stanley Cup then it's a bet worth taking. But this isn't as simple as "if the Rangers don't win the Stanley Cup I'm going to yell I told you so." There are 16 teams that participate in the playoffs and only one winner. That's just over a 6% chance to win if all things were equal.
As you're well aware, though, all things are not equal. I think there's an enormous difference between going for it because we should be and going for it because we might be able to make noise. I think the Rangers as is are in the latter category. I think risking it big on this group isn't the smartest thing in the world. There is something to be said about how it might work, though. You only get so many kicks at the can and Lundqvist isn't getting any younger. The risks outweigh the reward but no one thinks about that if you end up on top.
But I can't help but feel that if the Rangers hedged their bets over the summer and made the undeniably difficult (but ultimately) correct calls on some older veterans we wouldn't be in this situation. That's the past, though, and because those wounds weren't taken care of then they've festered into something bigger.
The Rangers will move on despite that, though.
And you may as well get used to that now.