It's getting dangerously close to silly season. For those of you who don't know, I name three periods of time silly season for the New York Rangers:
1) Leading up to the trade deadline.
2) The first week or so after the season ends (this period gets extended the worse the Rangers did that year).
3) The period that falls right before the draft and runs through the first few days of free agency.
All of these dates have something in common: It's a time when player movement/speculation is far more common, and the Rangers -- due to their very large following -- are linked to almost every player and trade because people read more when the Rangers are involved. They're not alone in this, of course; all the big-market teams get the same treatment.
This means the Rangers will more than likely be involved in a trillion trade rumors, with a fraction of them falling both in the "making logistical sense" and "likely enough to happen" categories. That still won't slow the speculation, nor will it stop us from trying to sort things out to see the real from the crazy. We do it all the time.
In a lot of ways Larry Brooks has become the king of "eventually getting the right answer, but taking the wrong path to get there." We've seen this all year as Brooks has slowly turned on his everlasting belief in Tanner Glass, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal -- although he continues to get it very wrong on Kevin Hayes.
Still, Brooks is the most connected reporter in the Rangers' beat, and he typically doesn't spew out speculation unless he sees a little smoke. Note: That doesn't mean everything he writes comes from a source that it's in the works, it just means he can see far more writing on the wall than others and can speculate from a different angle.
The speculation he came up with on Tuesday was very interesting. Should the Rangers choose to listen to offers for Ryan McDonagh, and what should they expect to get in return? From his story:
If the mandate is to renovate and rejuvenate, the Rangers owe it to themselves to investigate fully what they could attain in return for this 27-year-old (as of June 13) with a club-friendly annual $4.5 million cap charge through 2018-19 -- but whose limited no-trade clause kicks in July 1.
Specifically, it would be to determine what the club might be able to extract from Edmonton, a team likely to be excluded from consideration once the no-trade is in force. What would the defense-needy Oilers be willing to deal for McDonagh, the best defenseman at the best price they might ever be able to acquire?
This year's first-rounder -- which will be overall pick Nos. 1-5 as determined by this coming Saturday's lottery drawing -- would necessarily have to be part of the conversation. So would Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.
Brooks later goes on to wonder if McDonagh couldn't land Matt Duchene from Colorado in a deal -- and then says all speculation is the assumption that if McDonagh is moved the Rangers will use that money to lock up UFA Keith Yandle. Two major problems with these theories, though:
1) Because of McDonagh's spectacular contract, moving him for, say, Hall, Hopkins or Duchene (all making $6-million a year) wouldn't exactly clear out cap space to allow the Rangers to keep Yandle. Not only would they take on an additional $1.3-million in cap space on the move, they'd also have to give Yandle a steep raise from the $2.6-million cap hit he cost the Rangers in 2016. The money just doesn't work.
2) Replacing Yandle with McDonagh shouldn't be the main perspective on a move like this. Yandle is about as vital a free agent as the Rangers have had in a long time, but he should be kept to pair with McDonagh to add stability to the defensive side of the team, not to replace him. The smarter move is to remove the two players who are making big money without helping the defense (you know the two) and then using that money for Yandle.
It should also be noted that if the Rangers could pry Edmonton's first round pick this year and get Hall or Hopkins you take the deal in a heartbeat. I love McDonagh as much as the next guy but you do what's right for the team.
While Brooks isn't exactly taking the logical road to get there, listening to offers for McDonagh isn't the dumbest thing in the world to do.
Here's the thing: If the Rangers floated it out there they're willing to take offers on McDonagh they'd get a lot of calls. If the Rangers made it clear they weren't putting him on the block, but rather seeing if they could get blown away, they'd still take a lot of calls. Doing this to see what the market value is/get a gauge of the pieces they could bring in is the smart move, even if they don't jump on any offers.
The biggest hurdle to a situation like this is there's no clear answer on how to keep the Rangers afloat without McDonagh's defense. The Rangers would have to try to acquire other solid defenseman to replace McDonagh, which would more than likely cost picks and assets they don't have.
The only thing I can think of is the Rangers moving McDonagh for one of the above deals -- of which most are wildly in the Rangers' favor -- and then think about trading Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider or even J.T. Miller for defensive help. And since the perception of Hayes is that he's a lazy player incapable of reaching his potential (insane narrative in my book) I don't love any of those ideas. I'm also not sure they'd make the Rangers any better -- depending on what they get back in those other fictional deals of course.
Does all this sound convoluted? That's because it is. It's also why doing a full overhaul -- and let's be frank: moving McDonagh means the Rangers are blowing things up -- is so risky. The Rangers know what they have in their core right now (I'm separating Dan Girardi and Marc Staal from this) and it's worth building around. It's young enough and has enough talent to continue to grow and move forward. This is not the olden days of the Rangers missing the playoffs with an ageing group that needed a youth injection. Well, maybe the defense is like that, but the rest of the team isn't.
IF (note the caps, this is speculation) the Rangers are having these types of discussions it's a good thing. Jeff Gorton has gotten a pass on most of this year's shortfalls, but his time is now. Brooks says he has a "mandate" to overhaul the team. To what extent is obviously a key factor, but he's been waiting in the wings for years to get this opportunity.
Now that he has it, would he be bold enough to think about moving the team's captain?
More importantly, would it even make sense to do so?